Plane-spotter Britons 'will prove they are not spies'

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The Independent Online

Twelve British plane-spotters accused of spying in Greece said yesterday they could prove that the allegedly secret information they gathered had been public knowledge for 20 years.

Twelve British plane-spotters accused of spying in Greece said yesterday they could prove that the allegedly secret information they gathered had been public knowledge for 20 years.

The group, who were released on bail from prison in Kalamata, southern Greece, in December, will return to court this month to face espionage charges carrying a maximum sentence of five years in jail. They launched their defence two weeks in advance to counter "misconceptions" in Greece and Britain about what they had done.

Paul Coppin, 57, from Suffolk, who was detained in Greece with his wife, Lesley, produced a military aircraft directory from 1982, which he said contained virtually all the aircraft they had seen. "It has been available to anyone who wanted to walk into a bookshop for 20 years," he said.

"There were a couple of brand new aircraft that were not in books but we can show they had been published in magazines," he said.

The defence plans to call expert witnesses, including a British military historian and retired Greek airforce officers, to show that the information was not sensitive.

The group had originally been facing 25 years in jail for felony spying charges but the offences were later reduced to misdemeanours.

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