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No Respite: India Supreme Court tells British sailors they will face trial

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that six British seamen previously charged and exonerated on weapons charges, will face trial.

The men were part of a group of 34 sailors who were arrested in October 2013 during a search of their ship, the Seaman Guard Ohio in Chennai, found weapons and a large number of ammunition.

The men maintained that the ship was on anti-piracy operations in the Indian ocean.

Nick Dunn, from Northumberland; Paul Towers from York; Nicholas Simpson from Catterick, Billy Irving, from Scotland, Ray Tindall from Chester, and John Armstrong from Cumbria were working for the American maritime security firm AdvanFort at the time of their arrest.

The company provides maritime security services to cargo and passenger vessels across the Indian Ocean.

However, police in Chennai arrested and charged the men with illegal possession of weapons and entering Indian territorial waters without permission.

The case prompted discussion in the House of Commons and Prime Minister David Cameron to appeal to Indian leader Narendra Modi.

Families of the sailors complained that the men were held in squalid conditions and were outraged when police demanded a “surety” of two Indian men for each of the sailors as bail.

In July 2014, a judge ruled that the cases against the six men should be dropped due to insufficient evidence – a ruling that was appealed by the police to the Supreme Court.

The men – who have now been moved to hostels – say their life is in limbo and they are forced to depend on their families to survive.  Lawyers for the men say that the Supreme Court’s ruling means the mens’ ordeal is just beginning as any trial will take a minimum of six months to come to court.

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