Plane spotters arrested in Dubai

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Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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Three British plane spotters have been arrested in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after being accused of breaching “national security”.

Valerie Clitheroe said her husband Conrad, 53, and his friend Gary Cooper, 45, have been detained along with their former work colleague, ex-pat Neil Munro, since February 21.

The trio were reportedly taking notes near Fujairah Airport, about 80 miles from Dubai, when they were stopped by an off-duty policeman.

It is understood the men are being held at Fujairah prison on suspicion of a “national security offence” and the case is being dealt with by Dubai public prosecution.

Mrs Clitheroe said her husband, who was due to fly home on February 22 following a planned four-day trip, was being 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 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.”

Mrs Clitheroe, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said she has spoken to her husband three times on the telephone since his arrest and has raised concerns over his health.

“He’s got high blood pressure and a heart murmur,” she said.

“He goes for regular check ups and takes quick a lot of medication which will have run out now.”

Mrs Clitheroe said she hoped to get legal assistance for the three men after one solicitor asked for 30,000 US dollars (£20,000) for just one visit.

The charity Detained in Dubai has now intervened and is seeking the trio’s release.

Its founder Radha Stirling said: “All three friends have a shared hobby of plane spotting and were keen to see Fujairah airport, where many older and rarer aircrafts can be seen. The practice is legal in the UAE though not widely understood, nor appreciated by authorities.

“The families of Gary and Conrad have now been advised that the matter has been escalated in concern to that of ‘national security’ and has been transferred to higher authorities in Abu Dhabi.

“The families are in obvious distress at how a simple and common hobby behaviour can turn into a prison ordeal. “

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

“We are providing consular assistance at this time.”

Published: Monday 2nd March 2015 by The News Editor

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