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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Red tape means Wigton man still not able to leave India

Red tape means a former Wigton sailor could be forced to remain in India for another two months.

John Armstrong photo
John Armstrong

John Armstrong is one of five Britons unable to leave the country, despite being cleared of any wrongdoing.

He was one of six British men – all ex-soldiers – who were working as security guards on board the American-owned anti-piracy ship, the Seaman Guard Ohio, last October.

All 35 crew members were arrested by Indian officials and held in a Chennai jail for six months on various charges, including those relating to the unlawful possession of firearms.

A major international campaign was launched, calling for their freedom, and the six British families were at the forefront of the fight which included handing a 100,000-signature petition to Number 10 Downing Street.

All but two of the crew members – including five of the Britons – were released on bail several months ago.

Family and friends of Mr Armstrong had hoped that his nine-months of trouble would finally be over in July, when a high court in India quashed all charges.

However, Indian bureaucracy means the men have not yet had their passports returned to them – and even when they are they must either wait 90-days or for the police to issue them with a “no contest” paper.

The Wigton man, whose family and friends still live in the town, has been backed throughout his ordeal by Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart.

Mr Stewart said that he had been liaising closely with the Indian consulate and the embassy and is “deeply impressed” with the efforts they have made.

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