NEWS

Blair: Plane-spotters were just tourists

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday he believes the plane-spotters arrested in Greece were simply tourists and hoped they would soon be released. Speaking in the House of Commons, Blair said he had spoken to Prime Minister Costas Simitis about the case, and that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had talks with his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, earlier in the day. Whatever the difficulties are, I think most people who look at this will understand that these people are indeed tourists, Blair said. A dozen Britons and two Dutch people were arrested November 9 after attending air force day at a military airfield in Kalamata, about 240 kilometers southwest of Athens. Papandreou predicted the group could eventually be cleared once authorities fully understand the passion of observing planes and airfields. This is a hobby that doesn’t exist in Greece… I am confident that the judges and prosecutors will keep that in mind, he said. In his conversation with Papandreou, Straw made clear that the 12 were only plane-spotters; any charges brought should reflect their activities, the Foreign Office said in a statement. He said that we respected the Greek judicial system, but asked for the cases to be dealt with as speedily as possible, it added. He had been responding to a question by Labor deputy Brian Jenkins, who had accidentally asked about the tourists being held in Spain. Greek judicial officials on Tuesday ordered the group to remain behind bars until a three-judge panel can rule whether to push for trial or drop the charges. This could take over 10 days. (AP)