Filmmaker's shock inside Indian prison where Wigton man held

Central Prison in Puzhal, Chennai where Wigton man John Armstrong is being held
Central Prison in Puzhal, Chennai where Wigton man John Armstrong is being held

One meal a day, no drinking water and dirty, stinking toilets and putrid living quarters.

That is the reality of life for one Cumbrian man, imprisoned in India despite spending more than three years protesting his innocence.

A documentary-maker recently flew to Chennai to try and meet John Armstrong, from Wigton, and the five other Britons currently serving five years hard labour for a crime they say they didn't commit.

Emile Ghessen travelled with Yvonne MacHugh, fiancee to fellow Brit Billy Irving, who was out there to see him.

Despite being allowed into the prison and then waiting patiently for three hours, Emile was eventually denied access to the men - instead settling for letters from them and photos of the prison.

He was disgusted at what he saw, later describing it as a breach of the most very basic human rights.

The six men were convicted of illegally possessing guns and ammunition in Indian waters, despite them all working for an American anti-piracy firm.

The Britons, all former soldiers, were among 35 crew members arrested on board the Seaman Guard Ohio in October 2013. They have not been home since.

Since returning to the UK, Emile, a former Royal Marine, has been highlighting the plight of John and the others and the shocking conditions they are forced to endure.

Emile said: "Some [of the men] managed to get letters out to me. In these letters, there was talk about physical abuse from the guards.

"They have only been having one meal a day which has no protein content, there is no toilet paper, and other prisoners go to the toilet wherever they please.

"They have been forced to buy their own clean water to drink, and often have to go long periods without water to wash.

"They have been subjected to sleeping on the floor, there have been constant power cuts - so no ceiling fan in the immense heat.

"They have had to buy their own mop, brush and detergent to clean their five-man cell, along with having to buy their own toiletries for personal hygiene."

Emile said that the sights he witnessed himself, on top of the men's detailed descriptions, were of living standards "far below basic".

"This should not be allowed to happen to British citizens who were simply passengers on a boat which it is still debated if it was [actually] in Indian waters rather than international," the filmmaker continued.

"These men are awaiting an appeal, but this is a lengthy process and nothing is done quickly here in India.

"In the meantime, six former British soldier are being denied their basic human rights. They are simply family men who were protecting ships against Somalian pirates and were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The men originally had the charges against the quashed, but an appeal was eventually granted and they were convicted in January 2016 after a trial.

They have appealed against their conviction, but have now been waiting months for a verdict.

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Arnold   Ainsworth , Workington Monday, 27 February, 2017 at 12:01PM
Stop all aid to India
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