Calls for “Eurobail” bolstered in wake of spy charges in Greece

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Series Details Vol.7, No.44, 29.11.01, p4
Publication Date 29/11/2001
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Date: 29/11/01

By Martin Banks

A LEADING MEP says the case of the 14 European plane-spotters being held in Greece on spy charges highlights the need for a "Eurobail" scheme.

The 12 British and two Dutch nationals were ordered to remain in prison when they appeared before a court in Kalamata on Tuesday (27 November).

They are expected to spend at least two more weeks in jail after magistrate Socrates Gavalas decided to refer the case to a higher authority.

The 13 men and one woman are alleged to have been taking photographs at a military air show.

They all deny taking photographs inside a restricted military zone, a charge that carries a maximum 20-year jail sentence in Greece.

Their plight was raised during a full session of the European Parliament yesterday by British Liberal Democrat deputy, Sarah Ludford, who asked Parliament's president, Nicole Fontaine, to intervene in the case.

Baroness Ludford, who is constituency MEP for three of the detainees, said: "This matter has gone too far. It is as clear as daylight that these tourists are not spies."

She added: "There is much concentration at present on cross-border law enforcement measures such as the European arrest warrant. But there must be a simultaneous European Union programme to strengthen legal safeguards so that all EU countries truly respect the European Convention of Human Rights.

"The EU should devise a "Eurobail" scheme to address the problem. The absence of such a scheme is partly preventing the detained Britons getting bail as they have no permanent address in Greece," said Ludford, who is justice and home affairs spokeswoman for European Liberal Democrat MEPs.

Under such a system, foreigners arrested abroad would have the same right to bail as natives of that member state. They could serve their bail in their home countries.

Said Ludford of the accused in Greece, "These people deserve better treatment than they are getting. The case against them must be brought without delay or they must be released immediately."

The Greek foreign minister, George Papandreou, was due to visit the 13 men and one woman last weekend but sent two of his officials instead.

One interpretation of the bizarre saga is that local law enforcement officials have taken matters much further than the central government would have liked.

Stephen Jakobi, director of the UK-based campaign group Fair Trials Abroad, said: "This is becoming an extremely serious case. Quite apart from the human distress, it raises questions about the abysmal judicial standards in Europe."

Reaction to the case of the 14 European plane-spotters, being held in Greece on spy charges after taking photographs at a military air show.

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