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  1. ITV Report

'Chennai Six' found not guilty in India's Appeal Court

From top left clockwise: Nick Dunn, Paul Towers, Nick Simpson, Ray Tindall, John Armstrong and Billy Irving. Credit: Chennai Six campaign

Six British army veterans who have been in prison in India for four years have been found not guilty and are to be released.

The men, dubbed the Chennai Six, and 29 others were first jailed in October 2013 on weapons charges while working as security guards on ships to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

All of the men have now been cleared and family members campaigning for their release said they were "delighted" and that "justice has prevailed".

They said their release from prison is imminent but they will now wait and see when they will be allowed to return home.

The men are:

  • John Armstrong, 30, from Wigton, Cumbria
  • Nick Dunn, 31, from Northumberland
  • Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute
  • Nicholas Simpson, 47, from Catterick, North Yorkshire
  • Ray Tindall, 42, from Chester
  • Paul Towers, 54, from Pocklington, East Yorkshire

The family of Mr Dunn wept and hugged when they found out the news that he had been acquitted.

His sister Lisa Dunn wept as she told her mother and brother: "They've been acquitted, it's all over."

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Later, they opened a bottle of champagne to celebrate the news.

Lisa Dunn said: "The longer it went on, as much as you still have an element of hope, it does dwindle after having so many delays and setbacks.

"But that hasn't happened today and we've had the best news ever.

"It will make all of our Christmases, all of our dreams have come true."

The family of Nick Dunn (from right to left) sister Lisa, dad Jim, mother Margaret and brother Paul. Credit: PA

Mr Dunn's father, Jim, said: "Absolutely fantastic, the best news in the world.

"We haven't been a full family for a long time now. Nick won't fully realise it's over until his feet touch down in Newcastle."

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Yvonne McHugh, partner of Billy Irving, told the Press Association she was "over the moon" the men had been acquitted.

She said: "I won't be able to speak to him until he's out of prison, we just want them home as soon as possible.

"I'm absolutely ecstatic and feel proud we've managed to do this after four years."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The government, from the Prime Minister down, has worked hard for over four years to support the men and their families and we share their happiness at the court's decision to give a full acquittal to each of the men.

"We are now working with the Indian authorities to discuss the next steps. We will continue to offer the men and their families consular assistance for as long as it is needed."

TIMELINE OF THE CHENNAI SIX

  • October 2013: Crew of 35, including six British army veterans, on board the American-owned anti-piracy vessel the MV Seaman Guard Ohio were stopped by the Indian coastguard and accused of entering Indian waters without permission. When boarding the vessel,officials found 35 firearms that were lawfully held for anti-piracy purposes. Despite providing permits for the weapons, issued by the UK government, the Chennai Six were arrested with weapons offences, straying into Indian waters and procurement of illegal fuel and imprisoned without charge.
  • April 2014: The Chennai Six were granted bail.
  • July 2014: Case dismissed in India's High Court but authorities appealed and the men were unable to return to the UK as authorities kept their travel documents.
  • January 2016: After a trial at a Magistrate's Court, the men were found guilty of possessing an illegal firearm and sentenced to five years imprisonment. They then began a lengthy appeal.
  • October 2017: The appeal judge stepped down and a new one was appointed.
  • November 20, 2017: The appeal ended and captain of the vessel, Dudnyk Valentyn of Ukraine, was repatriated.
  • November 27, 2017: All crew members were found not guilty.