Three British plane spotters arrested in Fujairah

Three British citizens have been arrested in Fujairah on grounds of national security after they were found observing planes near the emirate’s airport, relatives said.
Conrad Clitheroe, 54, pictured with his wife Valerie, is one of three Britons arrested in Fujairah. Courtesy Clitheroe family
Conrad Clitheroe, 54, pictured with his wife Valerie, is one of three Britons arrested in Fujairah. Courtesy Clitheroe family

DUBAI // Three British citizens were arrested in Fujairah after they were found observing planes near the airport.

Plane spotting enthusiasts Conrad Clitheroe, 54, Gary Cooper, 45, and Neil Munro were arrested by Fujairah Police on Sunday, February 22, after they were found taking notes about aircraft.

Mr Clitheroe’s wife, Valerie, said: “I’m worried about his health because he has a heart condition and high blood pressure.”

Mrs Clitheroe, of Manchester, said she had spoken to her husband in Fujairah prison a couple of times.

“He is very upset and is finding it very difficult,” she said. “He does take medication every day and he would have run out of medication now. The prison is trying to sort that out for him and he has seen a doctor. I just want him to come home safely.”

Mrs Clitheroe, who works in a children’s club, said: “We really hope they will be allowed to leave because they respected the law by not taking pictures in Fujairah. But the authorities were not happy that they were noting down the planes. They are good, family men and did not mean to upset or offend.”

Plane spotters photograph and compile markings and national logos of planes, as well as the registration numbers of aircraft, helicopters and gliders. Mr Clitheroe works as a clerk in a logistics firm and has two sons, Kiel, 25, and Callum, 24.

He and Mr Cooper travelled from Manchester to Dubai on February 18 on a five-day visit.

They stayed in a Dubai hotel for two nights and then with Mr Munro, a former colleague who lives in the emirate. The men travelled to Fujairah on February 21. Mr Clitheroe and Mr Cooper were booked to return home to the UK on February 22.

“All three friends have a shared hobby of plane spotting and were keen to see Fujairah Airport, where many older and rarer aircraft can be seen,” said Radha Stirling, founder of Detained in Dubai, a non-profit group that has taken up their case.

“When they were originally arrested they were informed that it was for looking at the planes. They were asked to sign a declaration that they would not do it again and were told they would be released.

“They did sign, but are not sure what they signed since the document was in Arabic. They were kept in custody and the next morning it was escalated to a national security issue. The matter has been transferred to higher authorities in Abu Dhabi and they may be transferred to Abu Dhabi.”

The police found iPads, phones and cameras, but did not find photographs among the men’s belongings, because they were aware photography was prohibited, said Ms Stirling.

“We hope that once the CID has done background checks they will be released.” A UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said it was providing assistance.

Some websites warn that plane spotting in the UAE carries risks.

Website says: “Trouble may range from a simple check by police, the formatting of memory cards or the seizure of photography equipment, all the way to being questioned at a police station or even imprisonment.”

Published: March 3, 2015 04:00 AM


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