India firearms charge ex-soldiers denied bail
Six former British soldiers jailed in India for alleged firearms offences have been refused bail ahead of an appeal against their sentences.
The men worked on an anti-piracy ship and were arrested in October 2013. They were jailed for five years at a court hearing in January.
An appeal was lodged, but a judge in Chennai has ruled the men will not be released on bail in the meantime.
Relatives have described the decision as "devastating".
In all, 35 sailors were on the American-owned Seaman Guard Ohio which offered armed protection to vessels sailing through an area known as "pirates' alley" between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Each received a five-year jail term and was ordered to pay 3,000 rupees (£30).
The British men are:
- Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland
- Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll
- Ray Tindall, from Chester
- Paul Towers, from Pocklington, East Riding of Yorkshire
- John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria
- Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire
Customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition on board the ship which did not have permission to be in Indian waters.
An Indian court ruled it was not properly licensed.
The men have consistently denied any wrongdoing and claim they have been abandoned by their American employers.
They also say they have not been paid since November 2013.
Relatives had hoped the men would be released ahead of their appeal, but a bail hearing rejected their application.
Nick Dunn's sister Lisa, who has travelled to India for her brother's 30th birthday, said: "I hadn't been in India very long when I was told that the bail application had been rejected.
"This was not what we wanted to hear at all. We believe this is because the Indian authorities think they are a flight risk.
"We are hoping to try and challenge this but it's proving very difficult because of problems with communication."
John Armstrong's sister Joanne Tomlinson said: "We are just devastated. Having been to the prison and seen the conditions that John and the other men are living in, they had pinned their hopes on getting bail and just getting out of there."
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said staff were continuing to offer support to the men and their families, but stressed officials could not interfere in the judicial process of another country.