Monday, November 27, 2017

Anti-Piracy Patrol Vessel Crew See Convictions Overturned (Again)

Chennai Six Wait to Hear if Indian Authorities Plan Second Appeal
Shipping News Feature
INDIA – At last the families of the 35 men who have been detained by the Indian authorities for over four years, most of that time spent in prison, can allow themselves some hope. The Court of Appeal has ruled that the crew of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio who were arrested and accused of weapons offences and illegally entering territorial waters when the anti-piracy patrol ship was stopped are, as their supporters have claimed all along, innocent of any charges.

This case arose due to the imprecision regarding the legality of the vessel’s situation, an ineffective and shambolic performance by the men’s employers, US group Advanfort, which, according to those associated with the case, abandoned its employees to their own fates, the ineffectiveness of British diplomacy and the vagaries of an Indian justice system which has not covered itself in glory. Our story one year after the men’s arrest told something of the criminal history of Advanfort’s senior management and stories which appear as current on the company website are in fact dating to 2011/12.

After their arrest in October 2013, whilst heading home after an anti-piracy patrol, post incarceration the crew saw their lawyers dismissed by their employers, allegedly for non-payment of fees, a bail hearing five months after arrest, when most were freed but their passports retained, eventually facing a trial in July 2014 at which all were proved innocent. The authorities however decided to appeal and at a subsequent trial in January 2016 all those held were sentenced to five year’s imprisonment.

It is to be hoped that this new decision will end the matter and the men will soon be back with their families, all of whom were understandably jubilant when they heard the Court judgement. The British nationals detained, known as the ‘Chennai Six’ during a long social media campaign to free them are Nicholas Simpson, 47 and Paul Towers, 54, both from Yorkshire, Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute; Nick Dunn, 31, of Northumberland; John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria and Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester. All feel let down by the efforts of the British government.

All of the men have military backgrounds and appear to have suffered the privations of their incarceration comparatively well, despite reports of dysentery and associated illnesses. At the time of writing the men were waiting for release and unable to contact the outside world but the Twittersphere was alive with comments from friends, relatives and supporters.

The only doubts which remain are the time and date of the men’s release and whether the authorities will, once again, appeal. This would probably mean yet another release from prison but the inability to travel home.

To follow the full history of this case as it unfolded simply type a key word or phrase (Advanfort, Seaman Guard Ohio etc.) into the News Search box at the head of any page.

Photo: The family of Nick Dunn celebrate the news.