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No release for plane-spotters

KALAMATA, Greece -- Twelve Britons and two Dutch men facing espionage charges in Greece have had their hopes of an early release dashed.

The group, who describe themselves as amateur aircraft enthusiasts, were detained on November 8 after being accused of taking photographs of a military air base.

But the charges were increased to full-blown espionage after the discovery of notebooks allegedly containing details of two other airfields, including a NATO base at Araxos in southern Greece.

They all deny taking photographs inside a restricted military zone, which carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence in Greece, and is treated harshly because of the country's tense military situation with Turkey.

On Tuesday, a judge considering their case deferred any decision on their release for 24 hours while the contents of a report detailing intelligence reports on photographs and notebooks belonging to them was considered.

A lawyer for the group, who had hoped that charges might be reduced or dropped altogether, said there was bad news from the report.

The lawyer told the Press Association he understood the judge was not prepared to drop the charges as there appeared to be some evidence against the plane-spotters.

Another problem, said the lawyer, was that plane-spotting was "not a well-known hobby in Greece."

Eleven British men and the two Dutch nationals are being held in a prison in Nafplion, 80 miles from Athens.

The 12th Briton -- a woman -- is in the Korydallos high security prison in the capital's suburbs which is the only facility in the area with a women's wing.


• Greek Government
• UK Foreign Office
• Dutch Government

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