The plane spotters who were convicted of espionage in Greece earlier this year contained two Chelsea season ticket holders among their number. Antoni Adamiak relates the farcical story of how they were treated and asks for help from fellow Chelsea supporters.
With the new season imminent, I thought that I would draw your attention to an ongoing news story that first hit the national headlines last November. Among the party of 14 British and Dutch aviation enthusiasts arrested at a Greek Air Force open day in Kalamata, on the southern tip of the Peloponnese, were two season ticket holders from the Matthew Harding lower, Steve Rush and myself, Antoni Adamiak.
Our arrest occurred despite the fact that we had written permission to attend the bases over a period of four open days. After depositing a surety in excess of £9,000 each, we were finally allowed to leave Greece pending the trial in mid-December. I duly returned the following day to see the Blues stuff the unbeaten table-toppers Liverpool 4-0 at The Bridge.
I have known Steve — who became a regular fixture on Radio 5 Live with telephone calls direct from Nafplio prison — since 1994 when we travelled to the USA. Ironically, we have also bumped into each other on numerous occasions when watching the Blues in such places as Vienna, Bratislava and Majorca.
Due to the feverish media coverage, not least on our return to the UK, Steve and myself received invitations to be guests of chairman Ken for the Fulham home game last March. I was able to clarify the facts of the case to Ken, his partner Susannah Dwyer and others, especially as we have been victims of a concerted whispering campaign of disinformation throughout our ordeal.
At the end of April 2002 we returned to Greece for the trial, which despite our expert witnesses (including the editor of Jane’s) being able to testify that our actions were not illegal and we posed absolutely no threat to Greek national security, we were all convicted of espionage. Amid farcical scenes, six of the group were handed a one-year suspended sentence for “aiding and abetting”, while others, including myself, were sentenced to a three-year jail term. Further chaos ensued as the lawyers pleaded for leniency. The judges retired for further discussion and when the eventually finally came back they allowed all of the accused to go home pending an appeal.
So much rubbish has been written about what we allegedly did, much of which is not worth commenting on, suffice to say that at no point did we take any photographs at any military base or installation in Greece. The logbooks have now become crucial to the convictions, although there is nothing in Greek law to say that writing down aircraft serial numbers is a crime. Therefore the judiciary has invoked an archaic espionage law and suggested that the logbooks, cameras, telescopic lenses, a radio, books — all items that an enthusiast would have in their possession — and “other unknown factors” constitute espionage.
So here we are back in the UK, but the nightmare continues. The appeal, by normal standards, would have been heard sometime in 2004. But we have just learnt that it is likely to be heard before the end of 2002. So far we have been asked to collectively pay almost £250,000 in bail and legal fees. Despite originally being willing to cover the initial £3,000 instalment from our own funds, we have decided to ask for public help as further costs will mount up as we attempt to clear our names. Details of our appeal fund can be found at the Air Aid link below.
Obviously, we hope that common sense will prevails at the forthcoming appeal and that our espionage convictions are quashed. But there is much local pride and politics at stake, so the agony may be prolonged further. The serious possibility remains that eight of us will be hauled off to prison again if the appeal fails. Any support that can be offered will be greatly appreciated and gratefully received. Come on you Blues.
* Show your support to quash the Greek convictions *