British plane spotters freed from prison in United Arab Emirates


Three British plane spotters who have been held in prison in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for eight weeks accused of espionage are being released without charge, a lawyer has said.

Conrad Clitheroe, 53 (pictured below with his wife Valerie) and his friends Gary Cooper, 45, and expatriate Neil Munro were detained in February after being spotted by an off-duty policeman taking notes near Fujairah Airport, about 80 miles from Dubai. Words: PA.

The men were taken to a police station where they signed an Arabic document apologising and promising not to plane spot in the country again, before they were moved to a higher security prison.

Radha Stirling, the founder of the charity Detained in Dubai – which intervened in the case, said charges of espionage against the trio had finally been dropped at the Supreme Court in Abu Dhabi.

The men are set to be released later today, she said.

“The charges are being dropped with no fines or penalties. They’ve had a long time to wait to be told your case is ridiculous,” said Ms Stirling.

She added that the men were “traumatised” by their ordeal and she had spoken to Mr Clitheroe’s wife Valerie following news of their release.

“She’s so relieved and so happy,” the lawyer said.

Before her husband’s release, Mrs Clitheroe, from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said she had written to the Prime Minister’s office appealing for him to intervene in the case.

Plane spotting is legal in the UAE, but not widely understood.

The Foreign Office was unable to confirm that the charges against the men had been dropped.

During their detention, the men were forced to sleep on concrete beds and share a cell with up to 20 others at Fujairah prison.

Mr Clitheroe’s family raised concerns for his health while in prison because he has high blood pressure and a heart murmur.

He and Mr Cooper were originally due to fly home on February 22 following their planned four-day trip.

Speaking while he was in prison, Mrs Clitheroe said her husband described the conditions as “pretty grim”.

“It’s locked down so they can’t move around freely,” she said. “They can go outside at certain times of the day and they can ring home three times week.

“It’s just horrific. The whole thing is horrific. They just want to come home. We want them home.”


Scroll to Top