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Plane-spotters hit out at Greek courts

PUBLISHED: 06:14 11 February 2003 | UPDATED: 16:17 24 February 2010

THE Suffolk plane-spotters acquitted of espionage charges in Greece have branded the country's authorities a "disgrace" after they failed to repay bail money of nearly £20,000 to the couple.

THE Suffolk plane-spotters acquitted of espionage charges in Greece have branded the country's authorities a "disgrace" after they failed to repay bail money of nearly £20,000 to the couple.

Paul and Lesley Coppin, from Mildenhall, launched the attack after claiming promises the £9,300 they each shelled out for bail would be refunded 15 days after their acquittal last November were not kept.

The couple say they have been hit hard in the pocket as a result of their trial, and estimate they incurred legal, travel and accommodation costs of around £40,000 during the battle to clear their names.

"We are disgusted by this. The authorities told us we could expect the money back 15 days after the trial, but our appeal finished three months ago and we have heard nothing," said Mr Coppin, who organised the ill-fated trip in November 2001 which saw the 14 plane-spotters incarcerated.

"This is causing hardship for a number of our party, as this is no small amount. People have taken out loans and borrowed from their family to meet the £9,300 bail costs.

"Going back to Greece for the appeal in November also cost Lesley and I around £2,000. To find that sort of money when Christmas is coming up was far from easy."

The couple were among a party of 14 arrested on suspicion of spying at Kalamata air base, and spent time in jail before they were convicted in April.

They returned to Greece in November for an appeal hearing, during which their names were cleared.

"This really is a disgrace," added Mr Coppin. "We have now got to the stage were we are coming to the end our of patience. We are going to be contacting people to try and help, but it is like banging your head against a brick wall."

And Mr Coppin added plans to fight the Greek government for compensation had been put on hold due to financial constraints.

He said: "To pursue a claim against the Greek government would mean taking on more lawyers. If we did get our bail money back, we may consider investing some of it in fighting our corner, but no-one is in a position to do so at the moment."

A spokesman for the Greek Embassy in London said it was a matter for the Greek courts.


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