Family members of six Britons sentenced to jail in India for allegedly carrying unlicenced arms aboard a merchant vessel have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to intervene forcefully with Indian authorities to seek their freedom.
The six are among 35 members of American anti-piracy vessel ‘MV Seaman Guard Ohio’ that was intercepted by the Coast Guard off Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu, on October 12, 2013. Britain has since taken up their case with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.
Over 375,000 people have signed an online petition, seeking freedom for the six Britons, who were sentenced to five years in prison in January. The British government has been accused of not trying hard enough to secure their release.
Lisa Nunn, sister of Nick Dunn, one of the six, has urged May and foreign secretary Boris Johnson to step up efforts to secure their release, stating the mental state of the arrested had begun to deteriorate in jail.
“Nick’s always maintained that he feels abandoned and betrayed by the government and the country that he once served…There is overwhelming evidence that supports the men and proves that they were not involved in any wrongdoing,” Nunn told The Guardian.
Britain’s head of export controls has reportedly confirmed to the court in Tamil Nadu that the arms and ammunition carried by the American company owning the vessel had been given licenses in 2012 and 2013.
Dunn added: “I appreciate and understand that the government have spoken to various Indian counterparts over the last nearly three years, but for the evidence that’s there, it’s beyond belief that our government haven’t pushed harder.”
“They keep saying we’ve talked with this Indian counterpart, but it was apparent a long, long time ago that talking makes no difference to the Indian authorities. We need more robust action.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Our staff in India and the UK remain in regular contact with all six men and are continuing to support them and their families, working to make sure their welfare is protected in prison”.
“We recognise what a difficult time this is for those involved. We cannot interfere with India’s independent legal system, just as other countries cannot interfere with ours, but we will continue efforts to make sure this case is resolved swiftly. Ministers will continue to raise this case at the highest levels.”