View Full Version : Greeks and Espionage

5th Nov 2002, 11:08
I guess a lot of PPruners, whilst not aeroplane spotters exactly, are aviation enthusiasts. In view of the return to Greece of the British 'spies' for their appeal, do any of you feel worried about going to Grease for a holiday now? Are the standards of justice those expected of a member state of the EU? Is the entire thing a travesty?
Personally I think that if not for the possible serious outcome for those concerned, it shows the Greek legal system to be something of a joke.
:eek: :( :confused:

Flip Flop Flyer
5th Nov 2002, 11:32
So stay away, more room for the rest of us. Thanks. Best holidays of my life has been in Greece, but then again I never went there to make an a*se of myself. When one travels abroad, one should check the local customs and adhere to them. You're a guest there, behave accordingly. If you don't agree to their rules or laws, then it's bleeding easy to stay well clear is it not?

What's next, another stupid tourist calling momma when he's been caught drinking beer in a public place in the sandpit?

5th Nov 2002, 12:16
Well yes, that's one way of looking at it; but the group maintain that they were adhering to the guidelines that had been given, and the evidence given against them would seem to bear that out. The authorities had ample opportunity to stop the group from entering the base if they wanted to, or to escort them round to keep an eye on them.

Whether you choose to believe the Touchdowners or not, there is only circumstantial evidence against them, which in most EU countries would be enough to have the case thrown out. It just shows the differences in the legal systems, and is worrying in a country that depends so much upon foreign visitors.

Now I have known one of the accused since 1972, so yes, I could be said to be biased; but I'm trying not to be - I can see both sides' argument, and IMHO the best solution is to clear them of serious charges and let everyone go away from the whole sorry episode much the wiser.

Flip Flop Flyer
5th Nov 2002, 13:35

Fair argument. I'm just wondering who told them it would be ok to take pictures; the Greek authorities or their "travel agent". Whilst it is generally no problem having a Kodak moment at airshows in N Europe, the picture (pun intended) is often quite different in other parts of the world. Greece and Turkey being two examples, you know why.

Many countries depending even more heavily than Greece on tourism has laws that to you and me would seem strange. Thailand and Mexico to name two. Fact still remains, if you break the law of the land you stand to receive punishment. Ignorance of the law never was an excuse.

To my knowledge there are no common rules for criminal law in the EU. Plenty of examples. Denmark, for instance, has tried without luck to have some danes extradited from the UK, as they stand accused of tax fraud in Denmark. But the things they allegedly did in Denmark is not against the law in the UK, and therefore the UK is refusing to extradite them.

5th Nov 2002, 13:49
Ah yes, the pictures question - it has been established that no pictures were taken of any airbases; films were confiscated and developed; photos were taken at Civil airports (OK) a museum (OK again) and some old aircraft in a scrapyard (Once again, no problem)

The group were initially charged with photography, but that was later dropped. Unfortunately, press reports continued to use this reference.Oddly enough, on their previous visit to Greece, an officer accompanied them on a base visit and permitted the taking of pictures in a controlled manner as per usual throughout NATO - i.e. no installations visible which would be of use to sinister parties.

Anyway, I hope it turns out well for both sides in the end.

Select Zone Five
5th Nov 2002, 13:55
Although they seem to have overreacted in this case, I can see where the Greeks are coming from.

Doesn't a small bit of common sense tell you that it's one thing to casually watch aircraft and quite another to stand around with notepads and binoculars? Also that it's one thing to do it in the UK or the USA but Greece?! Come on! Would you not think twice about doing it in almost every other country in the world?? :rolleyes:

The media seem to make a big deal about the Greeks supposedly not understanding plane spotting...well I don't think I do either; I am a pilot, so of course I like to watch aircraft but standing around taking down registrations....why?? :rolleyes: Can someone explain the attraction?

5th Nov 2002, 14:29
Yes, on the face of it it seems foolhardy - but the group were almost all seasoned enthusiasts and well used to spotting in foreign countries. I know that Paul had a reputation gained during some of his other trips, and I don't know him personally, so I won't pass judgement; but one of the accused is a very good friend, and he would not knowingly have indulged in anything that would endanger his freedom.

The attraction? Well, we covered that a few months back. It's like anything really - how do you explain an interest when each has his own? The attraction of Greece, of course, is that their Air Force includes, for budgetary reasons, types which have long since been retired by other operators; they still fly C-47's, for instance.

tony draper
5th Nov 2002, 14:57
Don't think it has anything to do with plane spotters they're just working their tickets before they start whining for their marbles back.
Send a gunboat, oops, forgot, the EU won't let us do stuff like that now. ;)

5th Nov 2002, 16:30

Love to send a gunboat but have we actually got any boats left in the RN between the cuts and the accidents they keep having, 3 this year i believe to FFG/DDGs?

Anyway, what happened to when in Rome do as the Romans do? Playing devils advocate i remember being in the sub continent a couple of years ago and had my camera confiscated for atking pics of Mi-24 Hinds flying up and down the coast!

All i can say is they must lead very boring lives if they went all the way to Greece to watch a few F4s and co.......

5th Nov 2002, 20:14
Hey, I for one miss F-4s. Great noisy bastards they were.

:D :D

6th Nov 2002, 09:06
DuckDogers When in Rome, eh? If they had been doing as the locals did, they would have been taking pictures......the authorities ALLOW the locals to do it!!!

As to being boring; well, at one time you might have said so - standing around windswept airfields with a flask and anorak, etc. But I reckon this case has put the hobby firmly up there with extreme sports as a hazardous occupation!!!

Me, I'm going back to my stamp collection


6th Nov 2002, 20:07
6 Acquitted, 6 others get 1 year suspended sentences and the unfortunate guy who was too ill to travel has waived his right to appeal.

6th Nov 2002, 20:40
Just had a call from the wife of one of the "aiders & abetters" - all acquitted, apparently. More news to come soon.

A good result all round, especially for Greece - a lot of lessons learned; thanks to all who gave their support.

6th Nov 2002, 22:10
I can't believe I just read this:-

Paul Coppin, who organised the tour and faced jail, told BBC News Online he wanted to go to the annual air base open day on Friday, the anniversary of their arrest.

He said: "Hopefully they will greet us with VIP treatment, for a change."

Did the idiot not get the message the first time??:o

6th Nov 2002, 22:58

What the hell do they use for air on Planet Coppin?

Found this on another site, which is a statement from the Greek Ambassadors office at the time of the arrests...

"I would like to assure you that we share your concern about the twelve
British citizens detained in Greece and that we are doing our outmost to
assist and inform their friends and relatives.

I would like to bring to your attention the facts that lead to the detention
of the twelve British plane spotters. On November 5, they were stopped by
police at the Tanagra Air Force Base, informed of restrictions at military
airports and warned off the premises. Ignoring the warning, they then
visited military installations in Andravida, Megara, Araxos NATO Airbase
and, on the 8th of November 2001, the military Airbase of Kalamata, where
they were arrested.

When the investigating officers analysed the logbooks kept by the group,
they found those included flight timetables and eavesdropping on
conversations between pilots and Air Force ground controllers. Although I
agree that they weren't necessarily spying, their activities raised
legitimate concerns.

On Tuesday 20 November, the examining Magistrate, Mr Gavalas, deferred
judgement on the case, as the twelve Britons did not initially tell the
Greek Authorities about all the military installations they had visited.
This resulted in a delay of the procedures. Nevertheless, in the interests
of a speedy conclusion of the case, judgement is expected to be announced on
Monday 26 November.

Please be assured that we are following the case very closely and that we
are aware that plane spotting is a popular hobby in the U.K. But in the
aftermath of the September 11 attacks we are all the more sensitive when
dealing with military security issues. Furthermore, what may be legal in the
UK is not necessarily legal in other countries, and you would certainly
agree with the principle that Greeks in the UK have to respect certain laws
which they do not necessarily understand nor agree with. Although I can
fully understand the plane spotters' enthusiasm, they were well aware of the
restrictions and had specifically been asked not to take photographs or
eavesdrop on pilot conversations. Having breached the law, the necessary
legal procedures have to be followed.

I am confident that the case will be resolved very soon.

Constantinos Bitsios
Minister Counsellor
Embassy of Greece, London

So when in Rome is very apt. They knew the laws of the host nation, and they flouted them, to this result.

Training Risky
7th Nov 2002, 00:09
They were plane spotters, nothing more than that. To bang them up in a grotty 3rd world jail was nothing more than political posturing...probably over the Marbles.:eek:

Flip Flop Flyer
7th Nov 2002, 08:56
"bang them up in a grotty 3rd world jail" .... Are you speaking from experience or just flouting inane drivel ?

I'll trust the words of the Greek ambassador more than any anorak carrying spotter. They were told not to do it, proceeded anyhow, got busted and now they are crying and proclaming their innocence. The british press, and some here, with their inherent discontent with anything non-british, gets on the fence and claims Greece is at fault.

Alas, if a bunch of Greek spotters were doing the same in Blighty you'd all be defending their rights to listen in on radio converstations, keep books on departure / arrival times and take nice little snappies wouldn't you ?

I think the Greek authorities have been very lenient in this case. The spotters have after all broken the law, undoubtedly they would be sentenced to jail on espionage had Greece been the 3rd world country you portray it to be. Seems they'll get away with a slap on the wrist. And yet their "leader" talks of going back ... the bloke should have his passport revoked !

7th Nov 2002, 10:04
Well, if a bunch of Greek spotters were to come to the UK (which they wouldn't, because they don't do it) they would enjoy the same freedom as anyone over here - they could take pictures, listen to radio transmissions, record tail numbers, and lurk around the airfield perimeter to their heart's content.

As for Paul's comment - I assume it was made in jest, but it's up to him, anyway.

The statement from the Ambassador's office was, as said, released at the time of the arrests - much of what was alleged was later judged to have been unsubtantiated.

It's all very unfortunate, but at least it's over now, and time to move on.

Training Risky
7th Nov 2002, 10:41
Firstly, I have flown around the areas of Kalamata and Araxos and have experienced the bureaucracy and stubborness for which continental Europe is renowned.

Secondly, Nopaxthanks is right, you could sit at the perimeter of any mil/civ airfield in the UK without being interned. You should see the 'security' at some of them!:eek:

8th Nov 2002, 01:04
"Now acquitted of spying charges, the British plane-spotters are celebrating their victory and planning a triumphant return to
Kalamata military air base. "

BBC on-line 8Nov02

"In a surprising turn of events, a group of British plane spotters were arrested at the Kalamata military air base today and charged with espionage by Greek military police."

BBC on-line 9Nov02