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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge in Calcutta
"Bleach has always claimed he was responsible for alerting India"
 real 28k

Monday, 31 January, 2000, 12:42 GMT
Briton convicted in India arms case

Peter Bleach leaving the court after the judgement


A British arms trader and the five-member crew of a Latvian aircraft have been convicted by a Calcutta court of charges connected with a mysterious arms drop in eastern India in 1995.

But they have been acquitted of the most serious charge they faced, that carries the death penalty. They are to be sentenced later this week.

A British member of parliament has urged the UK Government to intervene in the case.


We are going to appeal against the judgement
Peter Bleach
Judge PK Biswas convicted the six on a range of charges, including conspiracy to wage war, aiding insurgency and violating Indian air-traffic laws - charges which could result in life imprisonment.

But they were found not guilty of waging war against India - the charge that carries the death penalty.

Mr Bleach, who came to the court in blazer and flannels and carrying an attache case, told reporters he was very pleased.

"We are going to appeal against the judgement," he said.

Mysterious drop

Peter Bleach and his co-accused have spent four years in jail after they were arrested for allegedly dropping arms in a remote rural district in eastern India.

Air Force jets forced down the Antonov cargo plane
A week after the mysterious late-night air drop in Purulia, West Bengal, Indian air force jets forced down the Antonov 26 transport plane which allegedly made the drops.

Prosecution lawyers said the weapons on board - which included Ak-47 assault rifles, rocket launchers, anti-tank grenades and thousands of rounds of ammunition - were intended for a religious cult in Bengal, the Ananda Marg.

Another man Kim Davy, said to be behind the arms drop, managed to escape and has not been seen since.

British intelligence

Mr Bleach, who fought his own case, maintained that British intelligence knew about the arms drop and that they in turn had notified the Indian government.


The plain fact is that the Government has abundant evidence that Peter kept in touch with UK authorities
Sir Teddy Taylor MP
A British MP, Sir Teddy Taylor, has now said the British Government had evidence to prove Mr Bleach's claim.

He has called on Home Secretary Jack Straw to open Secret Service files to give Mr Bleach a chance to win his appeal.

"The plain fact is that the government has abundant evidence that Peter kept in touch with UK authorities about everything he was doing in this episode," Sir Teddy said.

"It would be so much better if the British Government had told the court what had happened, which would have got him a better result.

"My hope is that they will now let the Indian Government know about the contacts they had with him," he said.

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See also:
17 Jan 00 |  South Asia
India arms trial verdict postponed
15 Feb 99 |  South Asia
Arrests sought in Indian arms case

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