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Plane Spotters Arrested In UAE Over 'National Security' Claims

An Etihad Airways plane prepares to land at the Abu Dhabi airport in the United Arab Emirates 
 Three British men have been detained and thrown into prison after UAE authorities found them noting down numbers of aircraft outside an airport in the Gulf state 

 Three British plane spotters have been arrested and sent to jail in the United Arab Emirates after being accused of breaching national security.

Life-long aircraft enthusiasts Conrad Clitheroe, 53, and 45-year-old Gary Cooper, both from Stockport, Greater Manchester, were detained on February 21 along with a third man, Neil Munro, who lives in the UAE.

The trio were held after an off-duty policeman noticed them observing aircraft at Fujairah airport in the Gulf state.

Mr Clitheroe's wife Valerie said: "We are all in a state of shock.

"I last spoke to him on Saturday when he was really choked up. He was so concerned about us at home and how we were coping.
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"Conditions in the jail are pretty grim - with concrete beds and 20 of them in a room.

"But the three of them are trying to keep each other going.

"They have been there more than a week now with only the clothes they were wearing and none of their other possessions."

The three friends had been keen to visit the site because of its reputation among plane spotters for being a location where many rare aircraft, including vintage models, can be seen.

Conrad Clitheroe (Facebook)

The party were confronted after the off duty policeman called for back-up officers, who them examined the Britons’ cameras, telephones and computers.

It is understood the men had taken precautions to check the legality of plane spotting in the UAE – which is not prohibited in the state.

However, they took no photographs because they were aware it was not allowed.

Their hobby is not widely understood in the UAE, leading to their difficulties with the authorities, who have a reputation for heavy-handedness.

The campaign group Detained in Dubai, which highlighted the men’s case, said the three were asked to sign a declaration which stated they would not attempt to plane spot again.

However, they were not provided with a translation of the Arabic document, nor with legal advice, leading to them being detained in custody and sent before a prosecutor last week.

They were then transferred to Fujairah prison.

Mr Clitheroe’s family concerned about his health because he requires daily medication for high blood pressure and a heart complaint.

According to Detained in Dubai the case was being treated as a case of national security by UAE authorities.

Before his arrest Mr Clitheroe. a logistics co-ordinator who has two sons in their 20s, posted several aviation-themed photographs to his Facebook account, including a night-time shot of a passenger jet climbing over his hotel in Deira, Dubai.

The case echoed the arrest of 12 Britons on espionage charges in Kalamata, Greece, after they were found plane spotting outside a military base in 2001.

Mike Bursell, of Swanland, near Hull, who was one of the party, said at the end of legal proceedings in 2002: "It's been a nightmare year. We came to Greece for seven days' holiday and spent six weeks in prison.”

Two Britons were also accused of spying after being found with scanners and high-powered binoculars in a hotel room in Delhi, India, in 2010. They were later fined.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “We can confirm the arrest of three British nationals in Dubai on February 22.

“We are providing consular assistance at this time.”  


 




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