David Cameron Writes to PM Modi Seeking Release of Undertrial British Sailors

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David Cameron Writes to PM Modi Seeking Release of Undertrial British Sailors

PM Modi during his visit to the UK last month issued a joint statement with David Cameron. (AFP photo)


Chennai:  UK Prime Minister David Cameron has written to his PM Modi calling for the return of six British sailors held in India for more than two years on charges of illegal possession of a huge cache of weapons on their ship.

In the letter to PM Modi shortly before his visit to London in November, Mr Cameron said the long-running legal case was causing the sailors' families immense mental agony as well as financial hardships, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The six were working as security guards for AdvanFort, which provides anti-piracy protection for commercial vessels, when their ship, moored off the coast of Tamil Nadu, was intercepted by the Indian coastguard on October 12, 2013.

AdvanFort claims the ship was arrested outside Indian territorial waters, had stopped only to refuel after being affected by a strong cyclone, and had legally purchased and properly documented all weapons on board.

The British men, who are all former military personnel, have been identified as John Armstrong of Cumbria, Nick Dunn of Northumberland, Ray Tindall of Chester, Billy Irving of Argyll, and Nicholas Simpson and Paul Towers, both of Yorkshire.

"Ministers have raised this case more than 20 times since November 2013, urging for it to be resolved as soon as possible. We will continue to press this case at the highest levels, however we cannot interfere in an ongoing legal process in another country," Foreign Office spokesperson said.

Mr Cameron had first raised the matter with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his visit to Delhi in November 2013.

The charges against the sailors were quashed by a Madras High Court judge last July, who said the arms cache was appropriate for "anti-piracy business."

But the Supreme Court ordered a retrial after ruling that the crew had not proven legal possession of the "huge quantity of arms and ammunition."

The men have been out of prison on bail since July 2014, but are unable to leave India until the retrial has concluded.

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