INDIAN press reports claiming deaf charity worker Ian Stillman has been refused a presidential pardon are the latest part in a campaign against him, his family said today.

Ian's brother-in-law Jerry Dugdale said the British Foreign Office had told him there was no factual evidence for the stories.

And he said he believed it was the latest attempt by Ian's opponents to keep him in prison.

Ian, 52, whose parents live in Tadcaster Road, York, has petitioned India's president for release from the jail where he is serving a ten year prison sentence for cannabis possession.

He has always denied the charge.

His family were contacted by the British Foreign Office and told Indian newspaper The Pioneer had run a story with the headline "The Stillman Stalemate - New Delhi says no to presidential pardon."

Since then, a similar story has appeared in the Hindustan Times, said Ian's brother-in-law Jerry Dugdale.

Jerry said: "There ensued a minor panic until we established that there was no factual basis to this story.

"It had been triggered by a meeting between John Prescott and (India's deputy Prime Minister) LK Advani last Friday as Mr Prescott had brought Ian's case up." But he has been told the application for a pardon had not yet reached India's government ministers. It was expected to do so later this week.

"I am pretty certain that this information has been put out by opponents of Ian, and that there is no truth in it," said Jerry.

"It is not the first time that the Indian press has been leaked stories about Ian which turn out to be untrue."

Stories were published shortly after Ian's arrest claiming that he was a dangerous criminal wanted by the British police and Interpol. The British Government released a statement saying there was no truth in the claims.

The Evening Press has been campaigning for Ian's release after hearing he had been denied a sign language translator at his trial, effectively excluding him from taking part. A leading human rights lawyer called it the worst miscarriage of justice he had dealt with.

Updated: 11:40 Tuesday, October 01, 2002