Families hold rally in support of loved ones

Paul Towers, from Pocklington.
Paul Towers, from Pocklington.

The families of six ex-British servicemen jailed in India on weapons charges, including one man from Pocklington, have held an emergency rally to raise awareness of the plight of their loved ones.

The event, held on Tuesday, was timed to coincide with an important meeting convened with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Hugo Swire MP.

The families are calling for urgent action by the UK government to assist them to put pressure on the Indian authorities, and support them to bring the men home.

Paul Towers, an ex-member of the Parachute Regiment, is one of 35 crewmen, including six British nationals, who were sentenced to five years in prison in January this year on charges of carrying illegal arms, illegal refuelling and unlawfully entering Indian waters off the coast of Tuticorin on 18 October 2013.

They were working for US maritime company AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection when their ship - MV Seaman Guard Ohio - was detained and weapons were found. In the following months the charges were dropped, but the Indian authorities appealed against the decision and the men were detained in India. Since then, the men have vehemently protested their innocence. A fresh legal appeal is in preparation and it is hoped that the case will be heard in June.

Ann Towers, wife of Paul Towers, said: “As a family we remain shocked to the core at the horrendous decision that turned our world upside down on the 11 January 2016. The fact that Paul and the other men are imprisoned in poor conditions, in horrendous heat, with little food, breaks our hearts. Our family and friends have been amazing sending food parcels to Paul, to bolster the men’s diet and to keep their spirits and morale up. We remain focussed on the appeal in June with prayers being said that the truth will out, and our beloved men will be allowed to come home.”