NEWS

Plane-spotters ‘foolish but innocent’

A British government minister yesterday called on Greece to release 12 British – and two Dutch – plane spotters detained for the past 26 days on suspicion of espionage, claiming they had not jeopardized Greek security. «We consider that the British people should be home for Christmas,» Denis MacShane, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, told reporters in Bucharest. «This is a serious issue and is doing very great damage to Greece in the eyes of the West.» He said the plane spotters had been «foolish but had committed no crime recognized in the European Union.» The 14 were arrested at the airport of Kalamata for taking photographs during an open day, but were subsequently investigated for allegedly listening to radio communications and jotting down serial numbers at other military airports. They had been detained at another three airports before and warned not to take photos in restricted areas. MacShane said his government was putting diplomatic pressure on Athens to release the detainees, who were on a paying holiday organized by Touchdown Tours and have been held since November 8. MacShane, in Bucharest for a meeting of the OSCE, challenged legal authorities to produce evidence. «If they have evidence, get it in front of the court tomorrow and let the process take place in public,» said MacShane, adding: «We don’t think there is any more to investigate.» Greek Foreign Ministry officials visited the 13 men (in prison at Nafplion) and the one woman (in Korydallos) yesterday. (Combined reports)