British families of Seaman Guard Ohio crew call for urgent action
The British families of the Seaman Guard Ohio crew have called an emergency rally in Carlisle to raise awareness of the plight of their loved ones imprisoned in India. The event is timed to coincide with an important meeting convened with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister Hugo Swire MP. The family are calling for urgent action by the UK government to assist them bring pressure to bear on the Indian Authorities, and support them to bring the men home.
The 6 British men were working on board the MV Seaman Guard Ohio as armed guards and maintain they were lawfully employed as security personnel. They insist that they were protecting merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden against Somali pirates. The vessel was out at sea when the Indian coast guard arrested the ship and brought it into Tuticorin port in Tamil Nadu. 35 men on the vessel were charged with possession of firearms and arrested on 18 October 2013. In January this year they were found guilty of the charges and sent to prison for five years. A fresh legal appeal is in preparation and it is hoped that the case will be heard in June.
Lisa Dunn, sister of Nick Dunn from Ashington Northumberland, said:“The devastating impact this ordeal has had and is currently having on our whole family is indescribable and completely incomprehensible. This has consumed our lives for the last 31 months, and we never believed it could ever unfold in a result of a guilty verdict. The meeting we have with Minister Swire and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is vitally important and gives us, the families, the opportunity to stand united and show that we will not accept this verdict. We are the voices of the men and our men deserve to know what steps are in place now with the British Government to help overturn this horrific miscarriage of justice.”
The Revd Canon Ken Peters, Director of Justice and Public Affairs, The Mission to Seafarers, who has been supporting the British families involved in this case since the men were first arrested, said: “This human tragedy drags on and the toll on the men and their families is devastating. I admire the amazing resilience of the men as they try to cope with the situation they are in, even though innocent in both intent and action. They were protecting otherwise defenceless seafarers from pirate attack and yet are unreasonably detained because of a complete lack of understanding as to the safety they were offering. The families are distraught with worry and are frustrated by the slow pace and lack of progress in the legal proceedings. As we are within a month of the High Court appeal there is worry that there will be yet another adjournment with further delays. The additional pressure this brings on the men and their families is another burden. Meanwhile the maritime security company Advanfort that employs the men has failed to pay their wages throughout this time of detention. It has failed to recognise its responsibility and abandoned the men. The financial difficulties compound the suffering and it needs to come to an end without further delay.’
The other British men imprisoned in India are Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick North Yorkshire and Ray Tindall, from Chester in Cheshire. The families are appealing to the public to support them by joining a rally which will be held at Carlisle Scotch Street and which leaves from outside the Debenhams department store at 11am on Tuesday 3 May. It is a short walk to the Halston Hotel where the families will be meeting with the FCO at 1pm.
They have asked that supporters write to their local papers or MP on this matter, particularly those from the shipping and maritime industries who can vouch for the crew. You can talk to families via their Facebook page or on Twitter via #FreeSGO6 and #SeamanGuardOhio.
The families have relaunched a petition which will be handed to Prime Minister David Cameron calling on help for the men and which has now been signed by around 350,000 people. https://www.change.org/p/british-foreign-secretary-free-the-6-british-ex-soldiers-from-indian-jail
A national social media campaign #FreeSGO6 has been launched and families hope to raise funds to support the crewmen via The Mission to Seafarers’JustGiving website. The families have so far raised over £33,000 but hope to raise more as the legal battle continues. https://www.justgiving.com/freesgo6/
Posted by The Mission to Seafarers
The Mission to Seafarers founded in 1856, and entirely funded by voluntary donations, today’s Mission to Seafarers is a registered charity that offers emergency assistance, practical support, and a friendly welcome to crews visiting over 200 ports around the world in 50 countries.