Britain has raised “concerns” over the five-year rigorous imprisonment given on Monday to six Britons, who were among 35 seafarers on board an American anti-piracy vessel impounded by the Indian Coast Guard in 2013.
Amid dismay among campaigners and relatives of the six Britons, Foreign Office minister Hugo Swire used the occasion to welcome new Indian high commissioner Navtej Sarna to raise the issue on Tuesday.
Swire said: “I raised UK concerns for the British nationals imprisoned in Chennai with the Indian high commissioner. We are providing support to them. Welcomed new Indian high commissioner Sarna to the UK today. Look forward to strengthening our countries’ friendship.”
A district principal sessions court in Tamil Nadu had pronounced the judgement under the Arms Act against the personnel, who were on the anti-piracy vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio that was intercepted by the Coast Guard with arms and ammunition on October 12, 2013.
Britain Prime Minister David Cameron had taken up the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi before the latter’s visit in November, while MPs raised it in parliament. A petition on the issue was signed by more than 300,000 people.
The six Britons are Billy Irving from Connel, Argyllshire, Nick Dunn from Northumberland, Ray Tindall of Chester, John Armstrong from Cumbria and Paul Towers and Nicholas Simpson, both from North Yorkshire.