FIVE of the six former British soldiers jailed in India - one of whom is from near York - have been granted bail, the maritime charity helping them has said.
The men are among 33 of 35 crewmen from the ship the Seaman Guard Ohio who were detained in India in October. Paul Towers, from Pocklington and understood to be a former member of the Parachute Regiment, was among those working for US private maritime company AdvanFort providing protection from pirates at the time.
Mr Towers and fellow crew members Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, Billy Irving, Nick Dunn, Ray Tindall and John Armstrong were arrested on October 12 and have been in prison in India since October 24. Maritime welfare charity The Mission to Seafarers said five of the men, whose names have not been confirmed, could now be released as early as Friday, but one member of the group has not. Mr Irving's partner today said he was among those granted bail.
The move comes just a week after supporters of the men handed a petition with nearly 150,000 signatures to Downing Street. In a statement, The Mission to Seafarers said: "We are pleased that most of the men are now likely to be freed on bail, possibly as early as this Friday.
"However we are still very concerned for the welfare of the captain and the security guard manager of the MV Seaman Guard Ohio [the ship detained], both of whom have been again denied bail. We are waiting for further advice on this highly complex case but will be doing all we can to ensure that the remaining seafarers in prison and their families are supported. We are also waiting to find out what the next steps and timings are in preparation for a trial of all the men."
According to the men, Indian authorities claim the vessel entered Indian waters illegally with weapons on board, despite AdvanFort apparently insisting the ship had the correct papers.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "This is a difficult and important case, which the Prime Minister has raised with Indian ministers.
"We are aware that five of the British nationals have been granted bail today. While we are unable to demand the release of British nationals, or interfere in another country's legal processes, we continue to make very clear our interest in this case, and the importance of ensuring that it is resolved as quickly as possible."