Plane-spotters still await bail money

THE Greek government is being asked to intervene to ensure £9,000 bail money is repaid to each of the 14 plane-spotters cleared of spying charges last year.

THE Greek government is being asked to intervene to ensure £9,000 bail money is repaid to each of the 14 plane-spotters cleared of spying charges last year.

Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden has made the appeal on behalf of the plane-spotters – including Paul and Lesley Coppin, from Mildenhall – and written a formal letter of complaint to the Greek authorities.

The MEP says that after he raised the matter in the European Parliament on Monday, Greek diplomats in Strasbourg got in touch with the Ministry of Justice in Athens.

Mr Van Orden said that in their initial reply, the Ministry of Justice cited the "ongoing legal process" as the justification for the delay in returning the plane spotters' bail money. Greek prosecutors have a formal "right of appeal" under the Greek justice system, but that is largely a procedural matter.


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Speaking after consultations with the Greek Ambassador to the European Parliament, Mr Van Orden added: "All justice systems have their proper proceedings, but four months is already an outrageous delay for the return of bail money to people who have been fully acquitted by the courts.

"In Britain, bail would be returned in days not months – £9,000 is a lot of money for each of the innocent planespotters to bear.

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"I have now written a formal letter of complaint to the Greek Ambassador in London and to the Greek Foreign Office demanding political intervention to bring this matter to an end and give our planespotters their money back."

The planespotters were arrested in November 2001 at an air show in Kalamata during a holiday organised by Mr Coppin, who ran a planespotting tour company. They were held in jail for some weeks before being convicted of charges relating to spying at a trial in April 2002. They were finally cleared at an appeal in November last year.

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