Britons held in Greece on spy charges

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The Independent Online

Twelve Britons are due to appear in a Greek court on espionage charges – apparently after a plane-spotting holiday went disastrously wrong.

Twelve Britons are due to appear in a Greek court on espionage charges – apparently after a plane-spotting holiday went disastrously wrong.

British diplomats in Athens are talking to the group to try to establish what happened. One official said: "We are baffled by the accusations."

The diplomat added: "It looks as if they were a harmless group of respectable plane spotters – but the Greeks could take a more serious view."

The 12 were arrested along with two Dutch citizens after an airshow at a military airport near the southern town of Kalamata .

They were on a week-long trip organised by Touchdown Tours, a company based in Suffolk which specialises in excursions for military aircraft enthusiasts.

The initial charge was taking photographs in a restricted area, although British officials are concerned that this has now been hardened to a charge of spying. The group told diplomats that they did not have cameras, only binoculars. But Greek sources say that film has been seized showing pictures of aircraft.

The 12 are being held in a jail in Kalamata, where conditions are said to be good. They have been allowed to contact relatives and the British consul will attend the court hearing.

British diplomats say they understand that the group had a written invitation to attend the airshow – however, one which would have included a strict no-photography clause.

Diplomats are worried about a report that the group had already been briefly detained in Athens for a similar offence. There is further concern about claims that the group had notebooks containing "details" of five military airports.

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