Portrait of MEP Amjad Bashir in the EP in Strasbourg

Amjad leads calls for immediate release of former soldiers

Amjad Bashir is leading calls in the European Parliament for the immediate release of six British former soldiers imprisoned after running anti-piracy missions in the Indian Ocean.
The MEP today condemned the jailing as “mistaken and wrong-headed” and said India must face international pressure to reverse its stance.
Two former soldiers from Yorkshire among the six arrested and imprisoned on firearms charges in October 2013 when the ship they were on was found to be full of weapons.

Charges against a total of 35 sailors and guards from the ship were originally dropped, but the Indian authorities appealed against the decision and have now won their case.

All 35 received five-year sentences earlier this month and were ordered to pay 3,000 rupees (£30). They include former servicemen Paul Towers, from Pocklington, and Nicholas Simpson from Catterick.

The men were arrested on board a ship owned by an American company which offered armed protection services to vessels sailing through an area known as “pirates’ alley” between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Mr Bashir, Conservative MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The EU and the international community must condemn this action by India which is mistaken and wrong-headed.
“We all sympathise with the problems that country has faced at the hands of terrorists. However, that is no reason to take such action against trained, disciplined, military men who were working bravely to combat violent criminals and protect Indian citizens.
“They were accredited personnel, engaged in a legal and important activity to defend lives, ships and cargo in a dangerous area for piracy.

“I want to see my constituents and the rest of our citizens released immediately, whether that is by pardon, parole or revocation of the verdict and sentence.”
A motion drafted by Conservative MEPs is expected to be approved by the Parliament on Thursday, calling for the immediate release of the guards and crew pending their appeal, and for the President of India to use his powers to pardon them or commute their sentence.