Plane-spotting tourists land up in pretrial custody

KALAMATA (AP) – A group of British and Dutch plane enthusiasts arrested on espionage-related charges were remanded in custody yesterday after testifying before an investigating magistrate. The 14 plane spotters – 12 Britons and two Dutch nationals – were arrested early Friday in Kalamata, 238 kilometers (149 miles) southwest of the capital, after attending a public event to mark a Greek air force holiday at a nearby military airfield. They were taking pictures of a military base. The film was confiscated, they were arrested and then brought before an investigating magistrate, said government spokesman Telemachos Hytiris. A team of Greek intelligence officers is expected to travel to Kalamata today to review the film, after which judicial authorities will decide whether to set a trial date for the 14 or drop the charges. A decision is expected to be made by Friday at latest. Until then, they are to be held at police holding facilities in Kalamata. Authorities said that after their initial arrest, military investigators found the group to be in possession of photographs of two other military bases – at Tanagra near Athens, and the NATO base at Araxos in southern Greece. The group was traveling on an excursion organized by Touchdown Tours, based in Mildenhall in eastern England, which organizes trips to air shows and air force facilities around Europe. Greek authorities in the past have frequently detained and released foreign tourists for photographing military installations. Last month, four Israelis were arrested on the island of Crete after inadvertently videotaping installations of a navy base. They were later released.

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