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‘Chennai Six’ to be freed from Indian jail

L-R: Billy Irving, Ray Tindall, Nick Dunn and John Armstrong in March 2015

[T]he so-called Chennai Six have been acquitted by a court in India and are to be released, after more than four years in jail.

Loved ones of the former British soldiers currently in prison in Chennai, India, have been campaigning for their release since they were arrested in October 2013.

The six were first jailed on weapons charges while working as security guards on ships to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Rory Stewart has been an active campaigner for the release of his constituent John Armstrong, 30, from Wigton and the other men since the beginning of the issue, has visited John in India, and has lobbied both the British and Indian Governments on John’s predicament for years.

Joanne Thomlinson and Rory Stewart MP

He said today: “Firstly I want to praise the incredible courage and fortitude of John Armstrong throughout his ordeal and the bravery and dedication of his family whose commitment to John’s release has been nothing short of inspirational. Having met with John during his time in India I could not be more delighted that this has happened and hope that we will be seeing John back in Cumbria very soon.  Obviously uppermost in our minds remains the men’s welfare and the need to be absolutely ready and prepared to get John on a plane with all the necessary paperwork done.  Once again I can’t overstate how pleased I am and proud of John’s family and particularly his sister Joanne for all their hard work. Hopefully John will be home in time for Christmas.”

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “Since I became Foreign Secretary, this case has been a top priority for everybody at the Foreign Office and today’s verdict is fantastic news.

“The FCO has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to reunite these men with their families. The importance the UK government places on their case cannot be understated.

“The men, their families and their supporters, who have campaigned unrelentingly, must be overjoyed. I share their delight and I hope they can return home as soon as possible.”

The former British soldiers are:

  • Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute
  • Nick Dunn, 31, from Northumberland
  • John Armstrong, 30, from Wigton, Cumbria
  • Nicholas Simpson, 47, from Catterick, North Yorkshire
  • Ray Tindall, 42, from Chester
  • Paul Towers, 54, from Pocklington, East Yorkshire.

In a Facebook post, the families said they were “understandably delighted” at the news and that “justice has prevailed”.

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