A rally is set to head through the streets of the northern English city of Carlisle today in support of six British men imprisoned in India.
The British families of the Seaman Guard Ohio crew have organised the rally 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. The families 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 six British men were among 35 people working onboard the 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 with the new case likely to be heard in June.
Joanne Tomlinson, sister of John Armstrong, said: “This rally will show the Government that we stand together as strong and determined today as we were 925 days ago when our loved ones were first wrongly arrested in India.”
The Revd Canon Ken Peters, director of justice and public affairs with The Mission to Seafarers, who has been supporting the British families involved in this case since the men were first arrested, noted that the American 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,” Peters said.