Families of India piracy-accused meet Foreign Office's Hugo Swire

Protestors in Carlisle
Image caption About 60 friends and relatives of the British men held a rally in Carlisle ahead of the meeting

The families of six British men jailed in India over firearms offences have met with a government minister as they step up their bid to bring them home.

The former soldiers, who were working on an a US anti-piracy ship, maintain their innocence.

Their families, who met with the Foreign Office's Hugo Swire in Carlisle, said the government is not doing enough to help them.

Prior to the meeting, rallies were held in the city and in Oban, Scotland.

The 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

They were working for a company protecting merchant shipping in the Gulf of Aden against Somali pirates and were detained in 2013 when it strayed into Indian waters.

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A number of other guards on the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, mainly Estonians, have also been jailed

Weapons on board were ruled not to have been properly licensed.

After charges were quashed then reinstated, they were convicted in January 2016 and sentenced to five years behind bars.

Mr Armstrong's sister, Joanne Thomlinson, said: "The conditions are not good, they sleep on a concrete floor, conditions really you would expect inside an Indian prison."

Yvonne MacHugh, Mr Irving's fiancee, said: "The one thing hurting him the most is not being able to see his [one-year-old] son."

She described prison conditions as "horrendous" in 43C (109F) heat with inadequate water, food and toilets.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Swire, the Minister for Asia, said: "I recognise what an extremely difficult time this is for all those involved.

"The appeals process is ongoing and as we have previously stated, we cannot interfere with India's independent legal system, but we will continue efforts to make sure this case is resolved swiftly."

A fresh appeal will be heard next month.

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