UK min raises concern over sentence of 6 ex-soldiers in India

London: Britain’s foreign office minister has called on Navtej Sarna, the Indian high commissioner to the UK, to raise concerns over the imprisonment of six former British soldiers by a court in India for illegally entering the Indian territory with arms.

Hugo Swire also used the meeting yesterday to welcome Sarna, who took charge at the Indian High Commission in London this week.

“I raised UK concerns for the British nationals imprisoned in Chennai with the Indian high commissioner. We are providing support to them,” he tweeted.

“Welcomed new Indian high commissioner Sarna to the UK today (Tuesday). Look forward to strengthening our countries’ friendship,” Swire wrote.

Nick Dunn, Billy Irving, Ray Tindall, Paul Towers, John Armstrong and Nicholas Simpson,who worked on an anti-piracy ship,were arrested on firearms charges in October 2013 when the US-owned ship they were on was found to be full of weapons.

A Tamil Nadu court on Monday upheld the claim by Indian authorities that the vessel was not properly licensed and sentenced them and 29 others aboard to five years in jail.

All men aboard the ship – which include the six Britons, 12 Indians, three Ukranians and 14 Estonians – received five-year sentences and were ordered to pay Rs 3,000 by Tutucorin district sessionscourt.

The MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which flew the Sierra Leone flag, was found about 15 nautical miles from Tuticorin port in October 2013.

It is owned by Advanfort, a US company that specialises in maritime security and offered armed protection services to vessels sailing through an area known as “pirates’ alley” between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

Indian customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition on board the ship which did not have permission to be in the Indian waters.