Hard-hitting film highlights Cumbrian man's prison plight


A hard-hitting film about a Cumbrian soldier imprisoned overseas is set to be shown to some of the world's leading shipping companies.

The short nine-minute film focuses on the case of the Chennai 6 - six Britons jailed in India for crimes they insist they are innocent of. Among them is John Armstrong, from Wigton.

It shows the true impact of the case and their sentence on not just the men - who were working for the anti-piracy firm AdvanFort - but on their families back home.

Narrated by Jordan Wylie, a friend and ambassador to the men, it explains the background to the case, as well as the reality of life since.

We've been waiting nine months for an appeal verdict

John's sister Joanne Thomlinson, who lives in Blennerhasset, explained: "It will be shown across the events at London International Shipping Week, which begins on September 11 and is attended by all of the big shipping companies and maritime companies.

"The purpose of the film is to raise awareness of the men's plight and to hopefully gather more support.

"It explains in layman's terms what an anti-piracy guard is and why they are needed, and explains the situation in simple terms."

The video was produced by Standby Productions, and features not only Joanne, but also Lisa Dunn - sister of imprisoned Briton Nick Dunn, and Yvonne Machugh, fiancee of Billy Irving, also in jail.

The three women have become firm friends and are the public face of the campaign to bring the six men - all armed forces veterans - home.

"We're really pleased with the video," said Joanne, 32. "It's quite hard-hitting and very emotional to watch it back.

"Standby Productions have really done the story justice and obviously we couldn't have done it without our sponsors Whittaker and co, Human Rights at Sea and Global Maritime Recruitment Solutions."

John, 30, and the others were among 35 crew members on board the Seaman Guard Ohio back in October 2013.

Encountering bad weather, the vessel headed towards Tuticorin port to refuel and obtain supplies.

However, it was instead intercepted. They were all initially detained on board before being marched off and told they were on their way to receive hospital treatment.

The reality saw them ushered through the back door of a court house, forced to sign untranslated documents and imprisoned.

After six months they were released and the charges eventually dropped but, following a further 18 months forced to remain in India, the 35 men stood trial and were convicted of illegally possessing firearms in Indian waters.

John has been in prison, in poor conditions, since January 2016.

An appeal against their verdict was held at the end of last year, but a decision has not yet been made public.

Joanne admitted: "Everything is at a standstill at the moment: we are still just waiting for the judge to release his verdict on the appeal.

"We've now been waiting 9 months."

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