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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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New hope Cumbrian man in Indian jail saga could return home

There are fresh hopes today that a Wigton man jailed for six months could return home after an Indian court agreed to halt proceedings.

John Armstrong photo
John Armstrong

The owners of a ship whose 35-strong crew were imprisoned on suspicion of possessing firearms have revealed they began court proceedings this week to see the charges quashed.

John Armstrong, from Wigton, is one of six Britons who spent almost six months in jail before being granted bail in March and then finally being freed earlier this month.

Mr Armstrong, whose family and friends still live in the Cumbrian town, has been supported by Rory Stewart, MP for Penrith and the Border, since his arrest in October.

This week the ship’s owners Advanfort began court proceedings to try and get the charges against its staff quashed.

The Madras High Court began hearing the appeal on Tuesday, and yesterday agreed to “stay” the prosecution.

This means prosecutors cannot proceed with the case until the quash petition hearing has taken place on June 10.

A spokesman for the anti-piracy company said in a statement: “The court has granted interim orders involving the Arms Act and this have resulted in the charge sheet being stayed, which means that the case cannot proceed in the mean time until it is heard by the High Court.”

Advanfort’s legal team has also had a separate petition granted by the court, which exempts the 35 from having to appear at court every 15 days.

The men will not now be returning to the UK however, as it is still a condition of their bail that they must reside at a hotel in Chennai.

The crew have been supported by The Mission to Seafarers.

The charity said it would not be commenting on the latest development, but instead will wait until the June 10 hearing.

The release of 33 of the crew on bail was met with joy, although this was somewhat dampened by news that the remaining two – including British man Paul Towers – must remain in the jail.

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