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Delhi blocks envoy’s Ward visit

Kohima, Jan. 17: British deputy high commissioner Andrew Hall’s visit to Nagaland today was cancelled after the external affairs ministry refused to clear it.

Hall’s scheduled trip had attracted much attention in the state as he had planned to visit pro-insurgent Briton David Patrick Ward at his prison cell in Dimapur. A British citizen who has been supporting the cause of the Naga insurgents for several years now, Ward was arrested by Nagaland police in July last year. He was booked under the National Security Act (NSA) for illegally entering the country.

The deputy high commissioner was scheduled to meet Ward in Dimapur today. Over the next five days, he had planned meetings with chief minister Neiphiu Rio and former chief minister S.C. Jamir.

Hall was also scheduled to participate in a five-day workshop for local journalists from tomorrow. More than 20 scribes from Tripura, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland are expected to attend the course on Basics of Journalism, to be conducted by a trainer from England. Higher education minister Deo Nukhu will inaugurate the workshop.

“We don’t know why the clearance did not come through though we applied for it well in time,” said Mainak De, head of the press and public affairs of the deputy high commission.

It was expected that the meeting between Hall and Ward would focus on the prisoner’s deportation and behaviour in jail.

Ward has often spoken in favour of the Naga rebels and visited Nagaland several times. He was deported to his native Edinburgh in 1992, but reportedly returned two years ago and has been in the state since. He was arrested on July 27 last year on the basis of complaints that he had damaged property and assaulted people in Noklak town of Tuensang district. He had attempted a 42-day-long hungerstrike last year but was talked out of it by the authorities.

Ward’s case has been discussed in British Parliament, making him a high-profile prisoner. He wrote several letters from his cell to the British government.

“There are not many people from a country of 55 million who are lodged in prisons outside England,” said De.

Additional director-general of police (prisons) .. Walling said he has written to the government seeking withdrawal of charges under the NSA against Ward so as to facilitate the Briton’s deportation.

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