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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

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Health of Cumbrian seaman held in Indian jail ‘up and down’

The health of a Wigton man is “up and down” as he enters his sixth month in an Indian jail, but his MP insists the fight to free him continues.

John Armstrong photo
John Armstrong

Related: Jailed Cumbrian soldier's fund off to flying start

John Armstrong was among 35 crew members on board the US-owned ship Seaman Guard Ohio, when it was detained by Indian authorities in October.

Subsequently, 33 of those were charged, including six former British soldiers.

Among them is Mr Armstrong, who has the backing not only of his family and friends who still live in the town, but also of Penrith & the Border MP Rory Stewart.

Mr Stewart has been campaigning for more than four-and-a-half months for Mr Armstrong’s release.

He told the News & Star: “I’ve held meetings with ministers, organised meetings with lawyers and have been talking to the High Commissioner.

“The judge made a positive comment [last week] regarding a further bail hearing [taking place tomorrow.”

The hearing last week saw the judge “indicate the likelihood” of releasing the men on bail. The final decision depends partly on conditions, and will be given tomorrow.

If granted bail, it will be several days until the Britons are released and even then it is unlikely their bail conditions will allow them to leave the country.

Mr Stewart said: “Basically John has been caught up as an accessory for the importation of weapons into India.

“The argument we are making is that the person responsible for adhering to Indian law should be the captain of the ship: it wasn’t John’s responsibility.”

He added: “Everything hangs on this hearing.

“John has been seen by the consulate officer and his health has been up and down.”

Mr Stewart did not want to elaborate but reassured the public that Mr Armstrong is being visited and is doing okay.

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