RELATIVES of the Chennai Six will stage a peaceful protest outside the Indian High Commission in London this Friday (June 16th) – and are urging members of the public to join them.
The Chennai six are six ex-servicemen who were held in October 2013 while working as security guards on the American-owned, anti-piracy vessel, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio.
They entered Indian waters to refuel but the local authorities accused them of not having the correct permits to carry firearms despite their paperwork, which had been issued by the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS), being in order.
A judge ignored their pleas of innocence and in January 2016 sentenced the Chennai Six to five years in jail.
The seamen, who have 74 years’ military service between them, are: Nick Dunn, 31, of Ashington, Northumberland, a former member of 1 Para; John Armstrong, 29, of Wigton, Cumbria, a former member of 3 Para; Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester, who served with the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and the Welsh Guards; Nicholas Simpson, 46, of Catterick, North Yorkshire, a former Sergeant Major in the 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment; Paul Towers, 53, of Pocklington, East Yorkshire, a former member of 1 Para; and Billy Irving, 37, of Oban, Scotland, a former member of 1 Para.
A judge has been considering an appeal for 200 days now but families, friends and supporters will this Friday be calling on the British and Indian authorities to not forget the men and to press for a verdict on their appeal.
Their UK-based lawyer Stephen Askins said: “They were armed guards backed by the international community as a successful answer to Somali piracy. Weapons go in and out of India on commercial ships all the time to protect the world’s crews from hijacking.”
“It has never been clear why the authorities took exception to these men and the courts have shown a complete misunderstanding of international law. The Chennai Six are at the wrong end of poor judgement and a miscarriage of justice. The Indians have made their point – it is now time for the men to come home.”
For the timings of the day see below:
- 1100 – Begin to assemble in Whitehall Place (SW1A)
- 12 Noon – Assemble for a few words regarding the formation of the march
- 12.30 – Form up under the direction of John Weeks (Member of the Cpl Stewart McLaughlin Campaign))
- 12.45-1.00 – March from Whitehall Place
- 1.00 – Parade to Richmond Terrace
- 1.15-1.45 – Petition hand in / Speeches
- 1.45-2.00 – Fall out)
- 2.00 – Chennai 6 Campaign to proceed to march to India House (SE12ND)
- 2.15-2.30 – Hand in documents/letters
- 2.30-3.00 – Speeches
Cpl Stewart McLaughlin Campaign: Background
Cpl Stewart McLaughlin was a 27 year old who served in the Third Battalion Parachute Regiment during the Falklands War and was killed during the battle for Mount Longdon.
During this battle he was a key figure who supported attacks on the enemy. Despite showcasing outstanding bravery which was noted by senior officers during the battle, he was never formally recognised for his actions which it is felt contributed significantly to the victory.
Citations issued recommending Cpl Stewart McLaughlin to be formally recognised for his bravery were lost with the Ministry of Defence rules not permitting a retrospective award.
John Weeks was Cpl Stewart McLaughlin’s former sergeant major who formed part of a march on Downing Street petitioning for an Award to be issued posthumously.
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The case of the Chennai Six is just one example of the work undertaken by the Mission to Seafarers to provide much needed support to the 1.5 million seafarers globally.
We help to support seafarers during instances of Piracy, mental health problems and provide seafarers with means of contacting friends, family and loved ones after long periods spent at sea.
You can help us continue this important work by providing us with a donation which will be gratefully received by all of the seafarers who rely on the support that we provide.