India charges British duo over planespotting in New Delhi

NEW DELHI:Two British planespotters detained in New Delhi last week have

been charged with illegally

intercepting communications between pilots and airport authorities, police said today.

Stephen Hampston, 46, and Steven Martin, 55, were held on February 15 at a hotel near the international airport after staff raised concerns about their suspicious behaviour. “This planespotting that they were doing is illegal in India. They should have applied for permission before doing this. They have been charged for violating the rules,” Delhi police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP. The two are set to be bailed but if convicted they face up to three years in prison, the spokesman said.

Another police official said the two had been booked for intercepting “communications between the pilots and the Delhi air traffic control.” He added that investigations had shown the two had no link to any terror group.

The case echoes another in Greece in 2000 in which local authorities jailed a group of 12 British planespotters after they were arrested at an air force day function. They were found guilty of espionage charges but their sentences were suspended pending appeals.

Indian media reports last week said police had found powerful binoculars, equipment that could trace far-off aircraft, including military planes and a map of the Delhi airport with the two.

India has been on high alert since a restaurant bombing in the western city of Pune on February 13 killed at least a dozen people.