NEWS

Plane-spotters free on bail

Fourteen British and Dutch plane-spotters detained for over a month on suspicion of espionage were allowed to buy their release yesterday after judges in the southern Peloponnesian town of Kalamata changed the charges against them from criminal to misdemeanor. After paying 5 million drachmas bail each, the 12 British and two Dutch citizens arrested on November 8 at the Kalamata military airport during an open day for allegedly taking photographs will be allowed to leave the country. Their release followed protracted complaints by UK officials, ranging from Prime Minister Tony Blair to British Euro-MPs. The Daily Mail tabloid had also launched a campaign for their release, urging its readers to boycott Greek products and refrain from visiting Greece. Yesterday, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw expressed guarded satisfaction. I was greatly relieved to hear this news, but we will now have to work hard to ensure that this judicial decision does mean the speedy release from custody of all those being held, he said, adding that he hoped all 14 would be home for Christmas. The sexual exploitation of victims under 18 will be punished with a maximum 10 years’ imprisonment and fines of 10,000-50,000 euros. If the minor involved is under 16, has been tricked into prostitution or the procurer is a relative or guardian, the punishment is at least ten years’ imprisonment and fines of 50,000-100,000 euros. Furthermore, sexual abuse of minors under 10 years old for payment will carry a minimum 10-year sentence and fines of 100,000-500,000 euros. For minors aged 10-15, the sentence is up to 10 years and fines of 50,000-100,000 euros. Using the services of prostitutes aged 15-18 will also be punishable with shorter jail terms and fines of 10,000-50,000 euros. In an attempt to discourage sex tourism, the law will also apply to Greeks committing such offenses with minors abroad.