Former Cumbrian Paratrooper faces another Christmas in jail

John Armstrong
John Armstrong

The family of a former Paratrooper face a third Christmas without him, as he prepares to spend it in jail.

It will be the second one John Armstrong has spent behind bars in India, having been convicted in January of illegally possessing firearms in international waters.

He and five other Britons are among a crew of 35 men convicted and sentenced to five years in jail.

John, 29, was first arrested in October 2013, spending his first six months - and that Christmas - in jail. The men were eventually bailed and had the charges quashed, but an appeal by Indian police led to a trial and eventual conviction.

As the men prepare to mark another family occasion without their loved ones, a renewed campaign has been taking place in the UK to offer support to both him and his family.

Yvnonne McHugh, fiancee of fellow Briton Billy Irving, has urged people to write to the men in prison, while pupils at John's former school - Nelson Thomlinson in Wigton - have been doing their part.

The school's Amnesty Youth Group heard a talk by John's sister, Joanne Thomlinson, and have been writing letters and joining the campaign to see him freed.

Last week they hosted a lunchtime Christmas bazaar, which included refreshments but also encouraged fellow pupils to send messages of support to John, sign a petition and write to their MP.

His dad, also called John, recently visited his son in India and described him as doing well.

He said John is "staying upbeat, looking healthy and keeping himself busy exercising and reading".

The family thanked everyone in Wigton, Cumbria and across the UK for their ongoing support.

The men had been pinning their hopes on a recent appeal against their conviction and sentence. Closing arguments were heard at the end of November, but the judge in the case has now reserved his decision to an as yet unknown date.

The Britons - and all the crew members - have always protested their innocence. They were working on board an American anti-piracy vessel, the Seaman Guard Ohio, when they were arrested.

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