The so-called “Chennai Six” – former British soldiers jailed in India on weapons charges – have won their appeal, according to supporters.
Thirty-five men were imprisoned in October 2013 while working as guards on anti-piracy ships in the Indian Ocean.
According to a supporter’s post on social media, a decision by the country’s Appeal Court found all 35 men, including the six Britons, not guilty of those weapons charges.
The men are:
:: John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria
:: Nick Dunn, 31, of Northumberland
:: Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute
:: Nicholas Simpson, 47, of Catterick, North Yorkshire
:: Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester
:: Paul Towers, 54, of Pocklington, East Yorkshire
Supporters said: “The Appeal Court has today found all 35 men NOT GUILTY we now wait to hear as and when the men will be allowed home to their families.
“This may take some time whilst the authorities decide whether they agree with the outcome or wish to appeal.
“If they wish to appeal the men might be released from prison but not allowed back to the UK,” the supporters’ post said.
Sentenced to five years in 2016, the men had consistently denied the charges – which had initially been quashed and then later reinstated by the Indian courts.
They were arrested while working aboard the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, a vessel owned by an American company offering armed protection services to ships travelling between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.
Indian authorities arrested the men after finding weapons and ammunition aboard the vessel, which they claimed had not been properly declared.
The charges were overturned when the men showed papers for the weapons had been issued by the British government and that they were lawfully held for anti-piracy security.
However, a lower court in India reinstated the charges against the men, leading to their conviction in January 2016.
“The families are understandably delighted that finally common sense and justice has prevailed,” the supporters’ group continued.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said word of their successful appeal was “fantastic news” and that he hoped the men would be able to return home “as soon as possible”.
He added: “The FCO has worked tirelessly behind the scenes to reunite these men with their families. The importance the UK Government places on their case cannot be understated.
“The men, their families and their supporters, who have campaigned unrelentingly, must be overjoyed. I share their delight and I hope they can return home as soon as possible.”