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British Plane Spotters Released without charge, The Guardian Reports

 

Three British plane spotters who have been held in prison in the United Arab Emirates for eight weeks accused of espionage are being released without charge, a lawyer has said.

 

Conrad Clitheroe, 53, and his friends Gary Cooper, 45, and expatriate Neil Munro were detained in February after being spotted by an off-duty police officer taking notes near Fujairah airport, about 80 miles from Dubai.

 

The men were taken to a police station where they signed an Arabic document apologising and promising not to plane-spot in the country again, before they were moved to a higher-security prison.

 

Radha Stirling, founder of the charity Detained in Dubai, which intervened in the case, said charges of espionage against the trio had been dropped at the supreme court in Abu Dhabi.

 

The men were due to be released on Monday, she said. “The charges are being dropped with no fines or penalties. They’ve had a long time to wait to be told your case is ridiculous,” Stirling said.

 

She said the men were “traumatised” by their ordeal and she had spoken to Clitheroe’s wife, Valerie, after news of their release. “She’s so relieved and so happy.”

 

Before her husband’s release, Mrs Clitheroe, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said she had written to the prime minister’s office appealing for him to intervene in the case.

 

Last month Valerie said her husband and his friends had been detained on 21 February during what was planned to be a four-day trip, and had been forced to share a cell with more than 20 men.

 

“We were just totally shocked when we heard and couldn’t believe it was true,” she said. “He’s really choked up every time I’ve spoken to him. They’re trying to help each other but it’s difficult not knowing. They would never do anything that would risk national security. They weren’t taking pictures. They didn’t realise plane spotting was such an issue.”

 

The Foreign Office was unable to confirm the charges against the men had been dropped.

Plane spotting is legal in the UAE, but not widely understood. This is not the first case where plane spotters have been accused of violating a state’s national security: 14 British and Dutch plane spotters were arrested in Greece in 2001 and held on spying charges in a lengthy court case.

 

Original Article can be seen here:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/20/british-plane-spotters-uae-prison-released-without-charge

 

The National UAE Reports:  http://www.thenational.ae/uae/british-plane-spotters-may-be-moved-to-abu-dhabi