INDIA'S representative in Britain has come under fresh pressure to allow charity worker Ian Stillman to remain in the country if he is freed from jail.

MP Sandra Gidley managed to lobby High Commissioner Ronen Sen at a Friends of India reception at the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

The MP for Romsey, who has been campaigning on behalf of Ian's family, urged the High Commissioner to make good a recent suggestion he may be granted clemency.

But she warned the Indian Government's suggestion this would be dependent on him leaving the country was "totally unacceptable".

She also raised the issue of Ian's possible transfer to a "Midnight

Express"-style jail.

Ms Gidley told the Evening Press: "I made it clear to the High Commissioner that Ian's life is in India. It is not a case that he can simply be deported. I told him that is where Ian's wife and children are - not to mention his work.

"I was trying to impress upon him that if Ian is allowed to leave jail, he can actually do some good in India. He should be released from jail on health grounds, and stay in the country."

Ian, who has been profoundly deaf since childhood, had a leg amputated after a road accident and is diabetic, is serving a ten-year prison sentence for possession of cannabis - a charge he has always denied. At his trial, he was denied a sign language translator, effectively excluding him from taking any part. The Evening Press is campaigning for his release and, in July, handed the House of Commons a petition signed by more than 5,000 readers. He moved to India nearly 30 years ago to set up a charity working with the country's deaf.

Ms Gidley continued: "The conversation with the High Commissioner was slightly frustrating, as the Government always reverts back to the same position that the legal process has been exhausted. But he did say he would consider what I had said particularly with regard to the jail transfer. That was encouraging."

Earlier this week, it emerged Ian could be transferred from his cell in Shimla, in India's Himalayan foothills, to Nahan jail, also in Himachal Pradesh.

Ian spent four weeks in Nahan when he was convicted of cannabis possession two years ago. The Midnight Express reference is to a film about a drug smuggler imprisoned in a Turkish jail where conditions were atrocious.

Updated: 11:00 Thursday, September 26, 2002