A campaign to free six British ex-servicemen – including a Chester resident – from an Indian prison claims the men are sleeping on concrete floors and living 23 to a cell.
Ex-Army sniper Ray Tindall, 40, from The Crescent, Newton, who has a young daughter Lyra back in Chester, spent time in the same notorious Puzhal jail during the early stages of the case until he was released on bail.
Conditions were described at the time as ‘appalling’.
A former sergeant with the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh and The 1st Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, Ray is caught up in a living nightmare along with five UK colleagues who were last month sentenced to five years in jail over weapons and smuggling charges.
Boat strayed into Indian waters
They were working aboard anti-pirate vessel Seaman Guard Ohio when it was impounded by the Indian authorities in October 2013 after allegedly straying into their territorial waters.
Accused of illegally possessing weapons, the men, who have always protested their innocence, have been stranded in India ever since.
Charges against them were originally quashed but the Indian authorities appealed and the men were found guilty in January following a trial. In total 35 sailors and guards from the boat were handed five-year sentences.
The Lancashire Telegraph reports that Mr Tindall got engaged to his girlfriend Jessica Kemp, 37, from Rawtenstall via Skype on New Year’s Eve but it was not the happy moment it should have been.
Miss Kemp said: “I am devastated. When Ray rang me to tell me about the conviction I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. He was crying down the phone and Ray never cries. I could also hear someone wailing down the phone.”
A campaign is in full swing to raise £100,000 for a lawyer to represent the men with £31,195 generated so far and a petition calling on the government to do more has so far been signed by 346,502 people.
The latest posting on the Free the Seaman Guard Ohio Facebook page says information has reached the families of the incarcerated through Embassy officials that conditions are poor for all 35 men imprisoned in the city of Chennai’s Puzhal Prison.
Inmates are accommodated 23 to cell, without mattresses and are sleeping on concrete floors. They have no shoes, which can be bought but they have no money. The men have access to water and are allowed two cups of tea per day, one egg and chicken once a week
“This is unacceptable treatment of any human being let alone 35 innocent men,” said the posting.
The petition to government on the change.org website states: “To think of them all back in prison with no company to help them, no visits from family...they are not even allowed to call home. They are being completely cut off from the world. It's not right and something must be done.
“We understand the British Government were shocked by the decision and never expected it. The have tried to lobby but it hasn’t work. More needs to be done and it needs to be done now.”
Chester MP Chris Matheson recently spoke in Parliament on the matter.
He wrote afterwards: “I used my time in the House of Commons to encourage the Government to seek a political solution to the ongoing issues in India. We must do everything in our power to get Ray Tindall and his colleagues home to their families. Enough is enough.”