Departure of plane-spotters is delayed

KALAMATA (AP) – Authorities examined more reports yesterday in the espionage probe of a group of British and Dutch plane-spotters whose jailing was called disgraceful by a legal rights group. Lawyers for the group – 12 Britons and two Dutch – had hoped for a bail ruling yesterday by the investigating magistrate in the southern city of Kalamata. But one of the lawyers, Yiannis Nikiteas, said it now appeared the investigation would continue. He also raised the possibility of additional charges but did not give specifics of other counts that might be lodged. I suspect that (the investigating magistrate) will bring additional charges but I can’t be sure yet, he told The Associated Press. British consul Donald Holder said it was possible the group could face more charges on the spying front which could be brought next week. The group would likely remain in custody until then. It’s probably not going to happen until next Monday, Holder said. As far as I know, they are not going to be moved from where they are. Holder said he will visit the detainees today. They are relatively OK. We’ll obviously do our best to keep their morale and their spirits up. The group was arrested more than a week ago in Kalamata after allegedly taking pictures while attending air force events at a military airfield. They were also accused of taking photographs at two other military bases, including a NATO base at Araxos in southern Greece. A spokesman for the London-based legal rights group Fair Trials Abroad denounced the decision to jail the group during the probe. The plane-spotters claim they were only practicing their hobby of watching aircraft and visiting aviation facilities. This is the most disgraceful breach of the presumption of innocence and case of locking up people without cause that I have heard of for some time, said Stephen Jakobi. The Greek justice system is exposing itself as one of the weakest justice systems in Europe – which we knew. Greek intelligence officers have submitted a report after reviewing photographs and notes found on the group. But we don’t know how the magistrate will evaluate it, Nikiteas said, adding that judicial authorities were also handed a report by Greek air force officers. Eleven British and two Dutch men were being held in a prison in the southern town of Nafplion. One British woman is in the Korydallos Prison near Athens, the only one in the area with a women’s section. The jails hold both convicted felons and people being held in pretrial detention. One thing is certain, they won’t be coming out (Tuesday)… That is indisputable, Nikiteas said. My reaction to this is total shock, said Dierdre Bowden whose sister Lesley Coppin is part of the jailed group. This isn’t what we were expecting at all. I just can’t understand it.

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