Britain in Hamburg

Cautionary Tales of Pre-Trial Detention and Extradition

There’s nothing quite as liberating and exhilarating as setting out and experiencing the world either on your own or with a group of friends. While the rewards of travelling are certainly tremendous, it’s always wise to be aware of the many potential pitfalls that are inherent to the travelling experience. One of the more harrowing perils that come with travelling is arbitrary pre-trial detention, where innocent people are arrested with no prior notice and convicted on bogus charges. Indeed, the abuse of pre-trial detention is a sobering and harsh reality that occurs all over the world.

The plight of the British plane spotters

One particularly egregious case of pre-trial detention happened to a group of 12 British (and two Dutch) plane spotters in November 2001, who travelled to Greece to pursue their hobby of plane spotting on military air bases. A series of reports from the BBC notes that the 14-strong group was arrested in Greece on the suspicion of taking pictures at a military air show, despite the fact that none of them brought any cameras.

Shockingly, the plane spotters were officially charged with espionage even though they had already secured the permission of Greek authorities to engage in their hobby. At trial, eight of the plane spotters were found guilty of espionage and handed three-year sentences; the remaining six were found guilty of aiding and abetting espionage, and were then given one-year sentences. With the strong support of London-based human rights watchdog group Fair Trials International, all 14 plane spotters were eventually acquitted on appeal in November 2002 and were able to return home safely.

Keeping up with Kirsty

Another distressing ordeal is the possibility of being extradited. Going through the entire process of extradition will definitely put a damper to your vacation plans, in addition to being an enormous source of stress and confusion. A Get Jealous diary entry from Kirsty back in 2009 outlined her struggles with being extradited back to England from a planned snowboarding holiday in Austria. After four days of memorable snowboarding lessons, Kirsty decided to tag along with her colleagues to register in the Austrian town of Landeck. (It’s mandatory for anyone living in Austria for more than three months to register with the local authorities.) Upon arriving at Landeck, one of the female authorities correctly identified Kirsty as a New Zealander, and went on to ask where her visas and permits to live and work in Austria were. Kirsty then replied that she was told to not worry about those documents since she was working for an English company, paid in pounds, and taxed in the UK. At this point, Kirsty was taken upstairs to be interviewed (for more than an hour) about illegally living and working in Austria. After a lengthy elaboration and discussion, the Landeck authorities chose to extradite Kirsty back England and fine her €200. All told, Kirsty was given two days to leave (and only through an Austrian airport); she would have been arrested if she stayed longer.

Fortunately for Kirsty, both the Landeck authorities and Innsbruck Airport officials decided to not imprint the extradition stamp in her passport. All told, Kirsty was able to arrive at England without any further hassle.

Image courtesy of: PHLAIRLINE.COM via flickr

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