The Mission to Seafarers and families of the British guards of the anti-piracy vessel the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, who have been unlawfully detained and imprisoned in India, have called for a parliamentary lobby and supporter rally to hand in a petition at Downing Street on the 7 July. This marks the day when the men will have been in detention for 1,000 days.
The families are calling for British MPs across all parties to unite to support the men and for the British people to write to their local MPs.
Yvonne MacHugh, partner of Billy Irving, issued a statement, via Change.org which said: “As you may or may not know the 7th of July marks 1000 days since the men were arrested. That is 1000 days too many that innocent men have had to have their lives torn apart and survive a living hell. Talking hasn’t worked, it’s time for action. The men cannot be left to rot for another 1000 days. They once fought for us as veterans, now we must fight for them.”
The Parliamentary Lobby will take place in the Boothroyd Room in Portcullis House from 10am to 11.30am. Families, supporting MPs and welfare charities will be speaking about the case. Families will also hand in a national petition to the Prime Minister at Downing Street. The petition has 351,212 supporters that have signed to pledge their support.
The Revd Canon Ken Peters, Director of Justice and Public Affairs, The Mission to Seafarers, will be speaking at the Parliamentary Lobby. He said: “Yet again we are bringing to the attention of all, the fact that men tasked with protecting seafarers from pirate attack are themselves ‘under attack’. The unwarranted detention of the crew of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, in India, because of their possession of armaments used to defend against criminal violence, has dragged on for 1,000 days. There is still no end in sight for the judicial process which has been subjected to adjournment after adjournment, delay after delay. Whilst pirates roam free, the crew and guards are held in prison. This really is the wrong way round. We hope that common sense will prevail, the injustice recognised and the men released to be with their families, at home with loved ones. I wonder if any other professional will take on the task of patrolling the oceans to keep seafarers safe?”
Lisa Dunn, sister of Nick Dunn, said: “For 1000 days now, my brother Nick and our family have had to try to get through the most immense pain and anguish knowing that he and his colleagues are at the centre of a devastating miscarriage of justice. To sustain this for one day was excruciating enough but the suffering we feel 1000 days on is truly indescribable. Never would any of us have ever imagined back in 2013 that we would still be living through this very real nightmare in 2016. My brother and his 34 colleagues are currently locked away in a prison after being handed a five year sentence in January, having to exist in the most horrific of conditions when there is overwhelming evidence proving their innocence. This is what I am fighting for and this is what I will continue to fight for until they are all back home safely with their families. I will not give up the fight for justice and their freedom.”
Joanne Thomlinson, sister of John Armstrong, said: “35 crewmen, including my brother John, are serving a combined sentence of 175 years in prison in India for reasons that are as incomprehensible to us today as they were 1000 days ago when they were first arrested. These men were carrying out a legitimate and vital job. Our petition bears the signatures of more than 350,000 people who recognise what a tragedy and an injustice this is. It is almost 3 years since these men saw their families, their friends, their loved ones, their homes. Instead the sit day after day in a cramped prison cell wondering when this nightmare is going to end, wondering why they are being punished when they are innocent of wrongdoing, wondering when they will see their homes and families again. This is absolutely not justice and we are clear that this will not stand. That is why we will be travelling to London to meet with MPs and to hand in the petition. More needs to be done to help these men and we will not stop fighting until they are home.’