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KALAMATA, Greece (AP) _ Fourteen British and Dutch plane spotters were convicted on misdemeanor espionage charges Friday and sentenced to prison for taking photos during an air show at a military base.

But the court said the sentences would be suspended if the plane spotters appealed the decision and they would be allowed to return home. All 14 began the appeals process and are expected to leave Greece on Saturday.

The court sentenced eight members of the group, those convicted of espionage earlier Friday, to three years in prison. It sentenced to one year six others convicted of complicity.

``This is a diabolical result. These people are not guilty,'' said British European Parliament member Richard Howitt, who has been campaigning on behalf of the group.

The maximum sentence was five years. Reading out her decision, presiding judge Fotoula Fotopoulou said ``arguments made by the defense are rejected.'' The defendants looked surprised but did not otherwise react.

``They knew this information was secret. They knew they gathered it illegally, and they knew that it could damage national security if it fell into the wrong hands,'' prosecutor Panagiotis Poulios said in his closing statements. ``The use they intended for the data gathered is of no importance.''

The plane spotters were arrested last November and spent five weeks in prison after they were allegedly caught taking photos during an air show an air base in this southern port city, about 150 miles southwest of Athens. They were released Dec. 14 after posting bail of $12,800 each.

After hearing the verdict, one of the plane spotters from Britain, Steven Rush, 38, said: ``I am not surprised. Every decision so far has gone against us.''

Originally charged with a felony carrying a maximum of 20 years imprisonment, the charges were later reduced to a misdemeanor. The group denies violating any ban on photography at military installations.

In their testimonies, the plane spotters insisted they were only engaging in an innocent pastime when they took notes about military aircraft.

``There is nothing sinister in this hobby,'' Mike Bursell, 47, testified.

The trial resumed after a 17-hour court session on Thursday ended at 2 a.m.

Poulios based his recommendation on testimonies of two Kalamata air base security officers, and reports by the Greek Air Force and the intelligence service.

Defense lawyers and witnesses argued that the information they were accused of gathering _ mostly notes about the types of planes they saw _ is freely available in books and on the internet, and that the 14 didn't know they had done anything wrong.

An aviation editor with Jane's Information Group, Paul Jackson, testified that Greece provides detailed information on its air force to 30 countries that are signatories to the Conventional Forces Europe treaty _ which Greece ratified in 1997.

The defense also argued that the group had received permission from the air force to attend the air force open day, and that they respected the ban on photography.

Plane spotting is virtually unknown in Greece, which has a tradition of tight military controls because of long-standing territorial disputes with neighboring Turkey.