Last year, 14 plane-spotters were arrested in Greece under the suspicion of spying. Wednesday April 24, 2002 the trial started against these plane-spotters.
Yesterday (Thursday) the actua trial started at 9 am local time and many experts were heard. Experts in the field of aviation, communication and various other fields of expertise. As of the beginning of this whole affair it was clear that plane-spotting as a hobby is not very much known to Greek people (at least it wasn't for the authorities), although there are many aviation magazines sold in Greece.
After the questions by the Greek lawyer to the Squadron Leader who was responsible for the arrest, it was clear that the arrest was based on the simple assumption that because he did not know the hobby plane-spotting and thus could not understand why people would take down numbers of planes found there in public on an open day organised by the Greek air force.
There was no real evidence that the plane-spotters are spies, no special equipment was found, no pictures were found (because non were taken) and the information found in the notepads can be found everywhere on the internet and in various magazines. Legal dispositions from witnesses of the prosecutor contradict each other, which in normal court sessions would atleast make one of the declarations less credible and makes you doubt about both declarations.
Although the Greek people are commonly known for their hospitality and the history of Greece where democracy once originated, it is very hard to believe that justice has been done here. The British MEP Richard Howitt stated that it appears that the court had their decision ready even before this trial began. That is is all about Greek nationalism and the Greek authorities afraid of losing face.
I am very personally involved in this matter because one of my closest friends is one of the plane-spotters sentenced to three year prison term. I try my best to be objective about this, but I cannot believe that this would happen in any other EU country, that any other EU court would have disregarded all the statements given by various experts and took into consideration the various cultural differences (plane-spotting being very common in the UK and Netherlands)
I sincerely hope that this decision will be overturned in the appeal. But whatever happens, these plane-spotters, and espcially my friend of course, can count on my support, hopefully they can also count on yours. For more information you can visit www.spotters.tk
In closing, please respect each other's opinions and remember that it is not the Greek people who are to blame for this, it is the Greek authorities. Furthermore, I used Greece/Greek instead of Hellenic Republic/Hellenic because it is more commonly known, please let us not get into that discussion again.