Bail bid launched to free Billy
BILLY IRVING could be allowed out of an Indian jail to attend his son William’s christening in a Chennai cathedral, when William and Billy’s fiancée Yvonne MacHugh fly out next month.
Billy, from Connel, is one of six ex-British soldiers who were arrested and imprisoned in 2013 when their boat protecting merchant seamen, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, strayed into Indian territorial waters carrying weapons without permission.
All charges were dropped in 2014 but later reinstated. After a two-year battle to return home, on January 11, 2016, a court in Tamil Nadu found the men guilty of border and weapons violations, and sentenced them to five years’ hard labour.
A bail petition should be submitted tomorrow (Friday) and, if successful, it would mean Billy would be freed until the end of his appeal hearing, which has been adjourned until June 15.
‘I fly out on July 11 and I hope to get William christened,’ Yvonne told The Oban Times yesterday. ‘It would be great if Billy was out on bail. It just gives you time as a family. It would mean a few days Billy could spend with his son, rather than looking through a prison cell. We can maybe go on a date.’
Last week, on May 31, Billy received a morale-boosting visit from Hugo Swire, Foreign Office minister, lifting hopes that Whitehall is making positive steps to put pressure on the Indian government.
If bail is not granted, Mr Swire told Yvonne he would be asking the Indian government to release Billy for a few hours for William’s christening at St Thomas Cathedral. He tweeted: ‘I again raised their cases with the government in Tamil Nadu and Delhi.’
Speaking on the campaign website change.org, Yvonne said: ‘Despite the lack of communication between us and our men, I am more than certain this has been a huge boost to the morale of our men who are languishing in horrific conditions in an Indian prison.
‘Would a government official fly to another country to visit men who are guilty of a crime? Of course not and this is the first time a government minister has visited a British citizen in a foreign prison.
‘The British government know these men are innocent and we want the world to know what a huge miscarriage of justice this whole case has been.’