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Family woe over Dubai planespotters

The families of two British men jailed after going plane spotting in Dubai are having to "beg and borrow" to raise desperately-needed cash for the legal battle to free them.

Conrad Clitheroe, 53, and his friend Gary Cooper, 45, were arrested after being spotted by an off-duty policeman taking notes near Fujairah Airport, about 80 miles from Dubai.

Their frantic families have appointed a lawyer to try to negotiate their freedom, but the fees cost many thousands of pounds and could push them into debt.

And they fear the legal battle could be lengthy after authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) declared they plan to move the men to Abu Dhabi to answer allegations they breached national security.

Their friend, ex-pat Neil Munro, is also in jail facing the same claims.

Mr Clitheroe's wife Valerie, from Stockport Greater Manchester, said: "We are all sick with worry.

"We have made an appointment with a lawyer, but they won't do anything until they have been paid £4,500 for Conrad and £4,500 for Gary.

"It is a matter of beg, borrow and stealing from family to get it. It is going to be a struggle, but we will have to do what we can.

"It is a real financial burden. And the longer he is in there he is not getting paid, he might not have a job when he comes out and we might be facing debt. His boss has not said he will lose his job, but you never know.

"It will probably push us into debt."

She added: "The authorities can keep them as long as they like. It is an incredibly worrying time. The family are really, really upset and devastated. We just want them safely back home."

The trio are facing their 10th night on concrete beds sleeping 20 to a cell at Fujairah prison.

They are still in the clothes they were arrested in, and have had their blankets stolen by other inmates.

Arrested after being spotted by an off-duty policeman, the men were taken to a station and signed an Arabic document apologising and promising not to plane spot in the country again.

The practice is legal in the UAE but is not widely understood.

They were initially told they would be put on the first plane back to Britain, but more than a week later they remain languishing in prison.

And their families fear they have suffered a fresh set-back after being told by the Foreign Office the UAE plans to move the men to Abu Dhabi within the next week.

Mrs Clitheroe said: "We have just had a call from the Foreign Office to say that this week they will move them to Abu Dhabi and the case will be heard there.

"It is not really the news we wanted to hear. It suggests they are not immediately considering releasing them."

Mr Clitheroe has high blood pressure and a heart murmur and his family fear the toll his detention is having on his health.

She said: "The longer this goes on, you just don't know the toll it is taking on his health."

The charity Detained in Dubai has now intervened and is seeking the trio's release.

Its founder, Radha Stirling, said: "The families are in obvious distress at how a simple and common hobby behaviour can turn into a prison ordeal."


From Belfast Telegraph