Friday, 21st April
The Propeller Club Liverpool has awarded its first ever “Maritime Personality of the Year” to a group of six British mariners who have been convicted of weapons offences and are serving five-year jails terms in Chennai, India.
The #Chennai6, Nick Dunn, Billy Irving, Ray Tindall, Paul Towers, John Armstrong and Nicholas Simpson, were recognised by Propeller Club Liverpool for their endurance and bravery in the face of their controversial convictions. The men were arrested whilst working as anti-piracy guards on a merchant vessel in the Indian Ocean.
The Indian Government say the vessel was carrying an illegal arms cache, but the men have consistently denied any wrongdoing and claim they were simply doing their job.
Steven Jones, President of the Propeller Club Liverpool says, “These brave men are not criminals or terrorists. They have served between them some 74 years for Queen and country, and were earning a living protecting seafarers from piracy. For them to be held in jail and to face such uncertainty, health risks and injustice is something that the maritime community believes is wrong”.
Jones added: “Propeller Club Liverpool is pleased to make this award to the #Chennai6 and a donation to support the efforts of the families in the UK who are working tirelessly to ease the dreadful situation.”
The six men, all proud and respected former members of the British armed forces, were working as security guards on an American-owned ship in the Indian Ocean. The ship was intercepted by Indian authorities in October 2013, and the crew and guards were detained after it entered Indian waters.
The vessel, weapons and ammunition should not have been in Indian waters, but the convicted crew say this was a failing which rests with the owners of the ship, AdvanFort, and not the guards, who had no control or influence over the vessel. The men were interrogated and initially charges were dismissed. However, in a seemingly political motivated response, the Indian courts overturned this decision and sentenced them – along with the rest of the 35-man crew – to 5 years’ imprisonment.
The group is currently held in Chennai’s notorious Puzhal Central Prison and say they have been abandoned by their employer. They and their families have made various appeals for help and support; they say the men are in poor health and under intense mental strain after being convicted for crimes they did not commit. Efforts to get them freed are ongoing.
Two representatives of the group attended a lunch organised by Propeller Club in Liverpool city centre on Thursday 20th April, at which the award was formally handed over. Jordan Wylie, who is running the Chennai 10K in June to further help raise awareness of the plight of the #Chennai6 was by accompanied by Lisa Dunn, whose brother Nick is one of the men being held.
Accepting the award and a donation on behalf of the #Chennai6, Lisa said, “Thank you to the maritime community in Liverpool for remembering the plight of the six men held. They are so far from home, but never from our thoughts and a gesture such as this award will hopefully remind people of their suffering and the ongoing struggle to clear their names.”
The Propeller Club Liverpool, a not-for-profit maritime membership organisation, has donated to the cause and is seeking to support Jordan in his charity run but Steven Jones believes there is still much that can be done while the families lobby the British government to press for their release.
Propeller Club Liverpool hopes the funds raised can help make life more bearable for the men, and that the award goes some way to showing the men and their families that their fellow professionals in the shipping industry recognise their sacrifice and bravery, and the injustice they are suffering.
The family are raising funds to support the men, please give generously to the #Chennai6 https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jordan-wylie-1