143k sign petition in support of sailor

The family of an Ashington sailor who is being detained in an Indian prison have formally called on government help to end their nightmare.

More than 143,000 people have signed a petition, started last October, calling for Nick Dunn and five fellow British sailors to be released from prison after their pirate-hunting ship was detained in Indian waters.

Nick’s sister Lisa joined relatives of the other detainees at maritime welfare charity The Mission to Seafarers in London on Tuesday before going to Downing Street to present the petition to Foreign Secretary William Hague.

Lisa said: “We need government help. When I was in India, there was a security advisor who said that the situation could be dealt with a lot quicker if the government gave assurances for the men that if they got bail they wouldn’t abscond from the country.”

Nick was one of 36 crew on board the vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio when it was detained by Indian authorities last October on charges including firearm offences and illegally entering Indian waters.

The crew are awaiting trial in Chennai while five bail hearings have been deferred – the latest one until next Thursday.

Earlier this month, Lisa visited Nick at the Puzhal Central Prison where she was left shocked at the conditions her brother was in.

Speaking to the News Post Leader, Lisa said: “When I saw Nick he was very up and down. He did seem quite low and he did say every day it is a struggle. The longer it goes on the harder and harder it’s getting for him.

“I knew he would have lost some weight but he has lost quite a lot, but with me visiting every day over the week the support shown for him did seem to lift him and he was getting a bit more positive.

“His morale is getting lower and lower. He is still my Nick but his shine has gone.”

Nick is sharing a prison cell with three of his colleagues – two Brits and an Estonian – and Lisa believes that keeping the sailors together is helping keep what is left of their spirits up.

Lisa added: “Nick was arrested on the Friday and I thought he would be out by the Monday.

“I never thought it would last five weeks let alone five months. There is no light at the end of the tunnel at the moment as they are just deferring it.

“We haven’t got anything to work towards, it’s just a waiting game.

“I’m getting more and more terrified for him. Reality is starting to sink in that this could last much longer. I’m just trying to come to terms with that.”

The Rev Andrew Wright, secretary general of The Mission to Seafarers, said: “This has been a deeply traumatic experience for everyone involved here at home and in India.

“There have been conflicting stories about what has happened all the way along, but we do know that the ship and crew had just come off duty protecting merchant shipping in the Gulf.

“The dangers of modern day piracy are very real, and more and more shipping companies are recruiting their own security vessels to protect them.

“We call again upon the Indian government to act swiftly in this matter, and for the government here to take notice of the petition that shows clearly that the British people want them to do more.”