Former soldier jailed on weapons charges

Paul Towers.
Paul Towers.

A former soldier from Pocklington is among six ex-British servicemen who have been jailed in India on weapons charges.

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

They have been held in India ever since and have vehemently protested their innocence.

Maritime welfare charity The Mission to Seafarers has been supporting the crew since their arrest. It says the men and families are deeply shocked and devastated at the decision and are stunned that the evidence has not irrefutably proven that the men were acting legally under international maritime law.

Ken Peters, Director of Justice and Public Affairs, The Mission to Seafarers, said: “I am horrified and filled with anguish at this decision which is deeply unfair and unjust. These men are seafarers but it seems the court did not accept the basic fact that the ship was and is an anti-piracy vessel. The men carried arms in accordance with international maritime law for the purpose of ensuring the merchant fleet was protected properly from the very real risk of pirate attacks and hijack. The men have already suffered so much so this is a terrible outcome. It is beyond belief. We understand that the men’s defence team are examining the possibility of an appeal.”