Planespotters 'knew they broke the law'

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British planespotters arrested for spying at a Greek airfield were carrying papers saying their hobby was illegal in Greece, their espionage trial heard yesterday.

British planespotters arrested for spying at a Greek airfield were carrying papers saying their hobby was illegal in Greece, their espionage trial heard yesterday.

The 12 were told their actions could have endangered the security of the country and that they were spotted acting suspiciously at different military airbases.

Notebooks, camera equipment and a scanner were seized from the 11 men and one woman after their arrest in Kalamata, southern Greece, last November.

Squadron Leader Nektarios Samaras, of the Greek air force, said printouts from a Dutch website were among the confiscated items.

Reading from one of the printouts, he said: "Greece is an ideal place for planespotters but unfortunately you are not allowed to take photographs, and taking the numbers of aircraft is a criminal offence."

Sqdn-Ldr Samaras said the Kalamata airbase was warned that the group had been arrested and released at another military airfield, Tanagra.

He said they were allowed onto the bases because Greece was celebrating Air Force Day, when civilians are allowed to tour airfields. But he said the spotters could not have seen all the planes they recorded from the public areas.

The spotters deny using the scanner to monitor frequencies used by airports and pilots. They also deny taking any photographs at Kalamata. They all deny espionage, which carries a maximum penalty of five years' jail or a hefty fine.

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