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Plane spotters expected to be freed after two months in jail 

 

7days - Dubai

Three men caught taking pictures of planes near Fujairah airport were due to be released from custody on Monday night after being cleared of espionage.

 

British tourists Conrad Clitheroe, 54, Gary Cooper, 45, and their friend Neil Munro, who is a UAE resident, had been held for almost two months after being arrested on February 22.

 

They had initially faced spying charges at the State Security Court in Abu Dhabi.

 

Lawyer Nasir Hashim, who is representing the three men, told 7DAYS that his clients have been convicted of the lesser charge of taking pictures without permission.

 

The court ruled that they had already served sufficient time for that offence.

 

He said they have not been fined nor do they face deportation from the UAE.

 

Hashim said: “The State Security Court in Abu Dhabi punished them with time already spent in jail, which is two months. No fines or deportation order was issued and they will be released soon.”

 

He added: “From the beginning my clients said this [plane spotting] was just a hobby and they were not aware that it’s an illegal hobby in the UAE. They denied the charge in court earlier and they are happy now that this problem is over.”

 

Clitheroe and Cooper, both from Greater Manchester in northern England, and Munro were arrested when an off-duty police officer spotted them outside Fujairah Airport, where many older planes are kept, taking pictures of planes and recording aircraft numbers.

 

Clitheroe’s wife Valerie told the UK’s Manchester Evening News that she cannot wait to see her husband on his release.

 

She said: “I am absolutely ecstatic. Apart from our wedding and the birth of my children this is the best day of my life.

 

“I just can’t wait to see him, to hug him, to hold him.

 

“We got a call from the lawyer at 10am today to tell us he’d been in court and the case had been dropped.

 

“We then confirmed it with the consulate.

 

“I am just so happy, we’ve been ringing everyone to let them now. I’m in a bit of shock too, I don’t feel like it can be real.”

 

Clitheroe and Cooper were originally due to return to the UK on February 26.