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Thursday, July 23, 1998 Published at 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK


Alleged gun runner's conspiracy claims

Peter Bleach and the Latvian aircrew in jail

A British man who stands accused of waging war against India has claimed he was used for political purposes before being left to rot in jail.

Peter Bleach has spent over two years awaiting trial in a Calcutta prison cell.

[ image: The Ananda Marga: Sect the programme says were buying guns]
The Ananda Marga: Sect the programme says were buying guns
He and five members of a Latvian aircrew arrested with him could face the death penalty.

He denies the charges of gun running for a small religious sect and says the British authorities have also let him down.

The BBC has gained an exclusive interview with him, which is being broadcast on the BBC Two programme 'East' on Thursday night.

[ image: Experts say Bleach faces a trial that could last a decade]
Experts say Bleach faces a trial that could last a decade
Mr Bleach, who ran an arms supply company called Aeroserve UK, was arrested in December 1995, when Indian military jets forced his flight down over Bombay, following an arms drop in West Bengal.

He is accused of parachuting crates of assault rifles, rocket launchers and grenades from a cargo plane.

Mr Bleach says he told his local North Yorkshire Police Special Branch about the planned delivery in August 1995 - as soon as he discovered it was illegal.

[ image: A fax from Mr Bleach's company to the MOD]
A fax from Mr Bleach's company to the MOD
The police advised him to pull out of the arms deal, which he did, although he continued to arrange to buy a plane from the Latvian state airline.

He says this was with police approval. North Yorkshire Police's Special Branch deny this. They say their advice was limited to the arms deal.

It was not until this year that British authorities agreed to divulge this information for Mr Bleach to use as he conducts his own defence in court.

Political pawn

Mr Bleach had expected the plane to be intercepted before the arms were dropped but this did not happen, although the cargo missed its target due to the pilots flying too high.

The BBC has now discovered that a warning was passed by the British to the Indian authorities in November 1995, five weeks before the arms drop took place.

It was not acted upon and Mr Bleach believes there was a political motive behind the inaction - tension between the Indian federal government in Delhi and the local state authorities.

[ image: Peter Bleach's cell is eight foot square]
Peter Bleach's cell is eight foot square
"In Delhi there was a Congress government and in West Bengal there was a Communist government and the two are not the best of friends.

"And I think somebody saw this report from the British and I think it's possible somebody decided to take advantage of this."

An armed insurgency in West Bengal would have allowed Delhi to have impose direct rule on the state and oust the ruling Communists.

Peter Bleach and the aircrew - two of whom are seriously ill - face a trial that experts say could last for ten years, since there are hundreds of witnesses to be heard.

After six months of sporadic hearings, the trial has heard from just six witnesses.

Mr Bleach tells the programme: "I'm not guilty. I've seen it said in the newspapers that it would be a shame if I hang for my naivety.

"I don't think it should be naive to report a terrorist incident and expect the police to do something about it. But apparently it is.

"I think it's extraordinary that you can obey the law and end up in jail for reporting a terrorist incident."

Guns for wanted 'monk'

Investigations by the BBC have revealed that the arms were on their way to a religious sect called Ananda Marga.

The organisation carries out humanitarian aid in some of the world's poorest areas, but has a darker side.

[ image: Wanted: Interpol says this man has 46 false names]
Wanted: Interpol says this man has 46 false names
It is based in West Bengal and for years has been at odds with the Communist government there.

The programme also says the man behind the plot, Niels Christian Nielson, used the stolen identity of Kim Davy throughout his dealings with Peter Bleach.

He also forced Mr Bleach onto the plane which dropped the arms.

Nielson, a Dane, is a 'monk' in the Ananda Marga, and is one of Interpol's most wanted men.

The international force says he has 46 known aliases, and is wanted for questioning in a number of countries about smuggling, money laundering and forgery.

Viewers in the UK can see the programme, 'East' on BBC Two at 1910 BST on Thursday night.

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