NEWS

Plane-spotters could arise in Laeken

A public prosecutor has proposed that the 12 British and two Dutch plane-spotters jailed in Greece since November 8 should stand trial on charges of espionage. The issue, which has even drawn the attention of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will be raised at the EU’s summit at Laeken later this week, a British official said. In his 30-page proposal to the Kalamata Council of Misdemeanor Court Judges, the prosecutor on Monday called for nine members of the group to be tried as spies and the other five as accomplices, for providing psychological support. The three-judge panel began reviewing the case yesterday and is expected to rule whether to refer the suspects to trial, release them on bail or charge them with lesser offenses. Defense lawyer Ioannis Zacharias said a decision might be reached immediately, or the panel could take a few days to rule on the case, The Associated Press reported. The group’s defense team appeared before the council and pressed for their release on bail. A spokesman for Blair said the premier would almost certainly talk to his Greek counterpart, Costas Simitis, about the issue at the EU summit over the weekend if it was not resolved by then, Reuters reported. Clearly there is always an opportunity for bilateral issues to be addressed in the margin, the spokesman said. We believe these individuals are tourists. The BBC reported that Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has intensified his appeals to the Greek government for the Britons to be released. While saying he hoped the charges of spying would at least be reduced, he conceded: It is not possible for ministers to order the judiciary around.