Six Britons from anti-piracy ship freed from Indian jail

Chennai (India) (AFP) –


Six Britons who were among 35 crew on a US-operated anti-piracy ship serving jail terms for illegal weapons possession left an Indian prison on Tuesday after their court acquittal.

The six were collected from prison by British embassy officials and were seen being driven away.

"Officials from the UK embassy came and took them after completing their paperwork," Murugesan, deputy inspector general of prisons in the southeastern city of Chennai, told AFP.

A high court on Monday overturned five-year jail terms passed on the six Britons, three Ukrainians, 14 Estonians and 12 Indians in January 2016.

"Officials from Estonian embassy are still inside the prison. Once the process is completed, 14 Estonians and three Ukrainians will also be released," Murugesan added.

The Indian coast guard intercepted the privately run MV Seaman Guard Ohio off the coast of Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu state in October 2013.

Semi-automatic weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found.

The crew were charged with not having proper paperwork to carry weapons in Indian waters, but India has faced intense diplomatic pressure over the case ever since.

The 23 foreigners were detained in Chennai's Puzhal prison, while the 12 Indians were at Palayamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli.

The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia to Europe.

The MV Seaman Guard Ohio was chartered to protect ships crossing the Indian Ocean at a time of increased risk from pirate attacks.

The six Britons were former soldiers working as guards on the vessels.