Reports began emerging on Thursday that the Seaman Guard Ohio seafarers have been granted bail and will be released on bail next week.
Earlier in the week, the 6 British families of the crew of the detained anti-piracy support vessel, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, in India called on the Prime Minister David Cameron and the government to do more to help them.
The men, all ex-soldiers, have been held for over 5 months awaiting trial in Chennai. A total of 35 seafarers have been arrested and detained on charges, including firearms offences and illegally entering Indian territorial waters.
This is the first time that the families in the UK have broken their silence and have come together to appeal for more help and call for all parties to speed up the process.
Also during this visit, the families of the crewmen announced that the British lawyers representing the men were dismissed on Monday night ahead of the bail hearing. The Mission to Seafarers, global maritime charity, which is supporting the seafarers, is now in touch with the Indian legal team and are trying to get clarity around what this might mean for the men.
Yvonne MacHugh, partner of Billy Irving said: “The families are devastated that we have lost the advice of Ince Law, one of the most prestigious marine law companies in the world, to help us. We are trying to find out what has happened today. The bail hearing is set for Thursday or Friday this week, and we are hoping that the men will still be freed, but we are now very aware that the legal team is much reduced. There are still lawyers working in India on the case, so we just have to hope that this will not affect the outcome this week.”
The Mission to Seafarers has been providing prison-visiting services on the ground to Puzhal Central Prison, Chennai where the men are being held and working to support families in the UK.
Carol Anne Edmonds, mother of Ray Tindall, said: “It’s about time something is done, I just want my son home, we’ve had promises from MPs and now we need to see action. I want more than anything, for the British government to support us and get the men out of prison.”
Don Towers, father of Paul Towers, said: “What would you do if it was your son? I will do everything I can to get him out.”
Yvonne MacHugh, partner of Billy Irving, said: “Enough is enough. We will be in London on Tuesday to hand our petition for more to done for the boys to David Cameron. My local MP, Alan Reid, has shown great support and he will be attending.
Lisa Dunn, sister of Nick Dunn, said: “My brother has been in prison all this time. I went to India to see him a few weeks ago and the situation is just terrible. We are desperate to hear what is going to be done, and now that we have collected over 143,000 signatures in the UK we will be seeking to appeal to the government to debate this in the House urgently.”
Secretary General of The Mission to Seafarers, the Revd Andrew Wright, said:
“This has been a deeply traumatic experience for everyone involved here at home and in India. There have been conflicting stories about what has happened all the way along, but we do know that the ship and crew had just come off duty protecting merchant shipping in the Gulf.
The dangers of modern day piracy are very real, and more and more shipping companies are recruiting their own security vessels to protect them. We call again upon the Indian government to act swiftly in this matter, and for the government here to take notice of the petition that shows clearly that the British people want them to do more.”