Mike Hookem MEP has welcomed the potential release of the “Chennai Six” after four years in a 'hell hole' Indian jail; saying the move was “long overdue for a group of professional men doing nothing more than their job.”
The six former British soldiers - who became known as the “Chennai Six” - were arrested while working aboard the US owned anti-piracy ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio; which offered armed protection services to vessels sailing through an area known as "pirates' alley" between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
After boarding the vessel, Indian authorities found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition, which they said had not been properly declared, despite permits issued by the British Government.
Despite the initial charges being dismissed, a lower court reinstated the prosecution, and the six men were eventually convicted in January last year. Since that time a number of appeals have taken place, with the latest seeming to have proved successful. However, it is not yet known when the men will be allowed to leave India.
Speaking from Brussels, Mr Hookem said, “it would be amazing to have these men home with their families for Christmas, rather than spending yet another holiday season in an Indian jail described as a 'hell hole.'”
“In my opinion, the original conviction was a complete miscarriage of justice.
“These men were quite legally doing a vital job protecting shipping in some of the most dangerous areas of the world and should never have detained in the first place.
“However, I am now concerned that despite having been acquitted, there seem to be no immediate arrangements in place to release and repatriate them.
“This has not only been a terrible ordeal for the men, but also for their families who have had to deal with the vagaries of the Indian legal system to finally obtain justice.
“I now urge the Foreign Office to arrange for the urgent release and repatriate of these men and show the support that seems to have been sadly lacking throughout their five four year ordeal."