Based on the discussion that was started on the mainpage by me, I would like to concentrate the discussion here.
As you know (or can read on the mianpage), a very close friend of mine was arrested for spying in Greece. He is a plane spotter, a hobby that is not well known in Greece (and many other countries it seems).
Plane Spotting is for some as normal as collecting stamps, baseball cards (or even Pokemon cards ) for others. The thrill of going after a special plane (be it military or commercial) and getting to see it for real, not from someone else’s picture…that is what it is all about. Some like to photograph the planes, others simply jot down the number of the plane, along with the date and place where the plane was spotted. They are not after construction plans or an extensive documentary of the technical instruments used inside the plane.
In the case of the 12 Britons and 2 Dutch people arrested in Greece they were specifically told not to take any photographs. As my friend told in a brief interview, they did not take any pictures of planes or buildings they were not allowed to photograph, they knew that was not allowed so they did not do so. The Greek magistrate has confirmed this, no incriminating evidence was found on the rolls of film that were developed by the Greek Intelligence Service (according to whom they had to send the roll to Switzerland to have it developed, thus stalling the trial for al least a week).
One of the spotters carried a scanner and was thus able to overhear conversations between pilots and the control tower. This was not a smart thing to do, considering the circumstances. But in the Netherlands it is not against the law to have a receiver, it is however illegal to have a device that can broadcast. In the light of their hobby, the judge should be lenient in this matter, he meant no harm.
As for Paul Coppin, who is a journalist for a Spotter’s Magazin (from what I understood) and was invited to a Turkish Air show, where he met a few high ranking officers/officials is looked upon with suspicious eyes, that I can understand considering the longlasting feud between Greece and Turkey. But this too should not be exaggerated as it is done now. It isn’t too uncommon for a journalist to be invited to an airshow and even meet officials of the organizing committee.
Through the eyes of the Western world, that is at least England and the Netherlands, the treatment, the way this case is dealt with is not in accordance with international laws. Over three weeks in prison without any charges being made. Over and over again the case is delayed and after three weeks, after certain elements of evidence have officially been acknowledged, the case was referred to a higher court…still without any charges being made.
As for the conditions in Greek prison…it is a prison, the purpose of a prison is to take one’s freedom away. That the conditions do not meet the standards of a 5 star hotel can be expected of course. But to have people sleep on concrete floors on a mattrass that isn’t even an inch thick, resulting in back pains for the prisoners, is inhumane. Greek is not known for its humane treatment in jails, judging from reports made by Amnesty International (27/10/2001: Greece: Inhuman prison conditions in Drapetsona, Athens).
As for interventions by various English and Dutch politicians, it is not their intention to order the judge to release them instantly, but they do care about their citizens and would like to expedite things.
I can even understand a little why the spotters were arrested, and I do not blame any of the Greek people, but I do blame the Greek authorities for delaying matters as they do. They seem afraid to lose face, they seem afraid of admitting they were wrong, they do not dare to take a stand and bring the group up for charges, which if at all, should be done on an individual basis, not as a whole group.
I would like to know what the rest of you thinks about this. I have read many replies already, for which I am thankful, the support is overwhelming and truly appreciated. But in this matter I am not completely without bias, so here you can reply without reservation and let me know whether you feel the Greek justice system is failing in this matter or not.
Thanks very much for your replies!