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Friday, 30 March, 2001, 16:45 GMT 17:45 UK
Fresh appeal for British arms dealer
Peter Bleach and prison officers
Peter Bleach: Serving life sentence for arms drop
By Mike Wooldridge in Delhi

Five Russian and Latvian aircrew who were freed from an Indian jail last year have appealed to India's President for the release of a British arms dealer who was sentenced to life imprisonment with them.

Peter Bleach and the aircrew were all arrested in 1995 after a mystery arms drop in eastern India.

The crew were granted remission on the remainder of their life sentences by President Narayanan.

But Bleach remains in a Calcutta jail eight months after the air crew were freed.

The Russians and Latvians argue in their letter to President K.R. Narayanan that Bleach should have equal treatment.

It is also become known that earlier this month the British Foreign Office minister, Baroness Scotland, saw the Indian High Commissioner in London to press the case for his release.

This was the latest of a series of British ministerial appeals.

Key conspirator?

A cache of arms and ammunition was dropped over Purulia in West Bengal in 1995.

Later the plane, with Bleach and the others onboard, was intercepted and forced to land in Bombay.

The destination of the arms remains unclear to this day.

At the trial where all six pleaded their innocence, the prosecution claimed that Bleach was the key conspirator.

Britain has interpreted the actual judgement as showing that the court found them all to be equally involved.

It is on this basis that it claims Bleach is being discriminated against by being kept in jail.

Bleach said in February he would go on hunger strike, but he has not carried out his threat.

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See also:

05 Mar 01 | South Asia
Jailed Briton's hunger strike threat
08 Dec 00 | South Asia
Plea to India over jailed Briton
22 Jul 00 | South Asia
India pardons arms drop crew
24 Apr 00 | South Asia
India arms case reopened
02 Feb 00 | South Asia
Briton gets life in India arms case
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