England

Chennai Six jailed in India: Boris Johnson vows to help Britons

Nick Dunn and Billy Irving
Image caption Nick Dunn (left) and Billy Irving are two of the six Britons serving a five-year jail sentence in India

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has agreed it was time six Britons "languishing" in an Indian jail were brought home.

The former British soldiers known as the Chennai Six were jailed for five years in India in January of last year for firearms offences.

The men were working on an anti-piracy ship when they were arrested in 2013.

Mr Johnson said the UK will "leave no stone unturned" after facing fresh pressure to bring them home.

The British men who were on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio are:

  • Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland
  • Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll
  • Ray Tindall, from Chester
  • Paul Towers, from Pocklington, East Yorkshire
  • John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria
  • Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire

Prime Minister Theresa May raised their plight with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recent G20 summit.

'Do a deal'

Former Conservative Foreign Office minister Sir Hugo Swire told Mr Johnson in the Commons: "Whilst I welcome the fact the Prime Minister raised the issue with Mr Modi at the G20, can I urge you to focus your efforts on the chief minister of Tamil Nadu and to seek a meeting with her urgently?

"It's almost four years since our boys have been languishing in jail there, I visited them myself.

"But it's time, frankly, that they were brought home."

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The British men were working on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio when they were arrested

Mr Johnson replied he was "absolutely right" and he would look at the possibility of talking to the chief minister of Tamil Nadu.

"Whether we will be any more successful with her in making our points, I will ascertain, but we will leave no stone unturned."

Labour MP Christian Matheson also appealed to Mr Johnson for the return of the men who have always denied any wrongdoing.

The City of Chester MP earlier told the Commons: "Will the minister pick up the phone to their opposite numbers in India, do a deal to get the men deported, so Ray and I can have a pint in Chester before the summer is out?"

Mr Johnson said he appreciated Mr Matheson's persistence, adding he has raised the case with his Indian counterparts on a number of occasions and will continue to.

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