Fi­ancee steps up bat­tle over Billy’s jail hell

Pe­ti­tion: Protest goes to Num­ber 10

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - LOCAL NEWS - BY RITA CAMP­BELL

The fi­ancee of an ex-sol­dier from Oban jailed in In­dia took her jus­tice cam­paign to Num­ber 10 yes­ter­day.

Loved ones of six for­mer sol­diers cur­rently in a “hell­hole” prison in Chen­nai handed in a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing the govern­ment do more to se­cure their re­lease, mark­ing four years since they were ar­rested.

Yvonne MacHugh, who lived at Con­nel, near Oban, with Billy Irv­ing, 37, a for­mer mem­ber of 1 Para, was ac­com­pa­nied in Down­ing Street by their two-year-old son Wil­liam, whom he is yet to spend a day at home with. She said Wil­liam has now been to In­dia three times to visit his fa­ther.

The six, who a Bri­tish lawyer says are vic­tims of a mis­car­riage of jus­tice, have been held for 1,461 days in In­dia.

They were first jailed on weapons charges while work­ing as se­cu­rity guards on ships to com­bat piracy in the In­dian Ocean.

In­dian coast­guards boarded their ves­sel, the MV Sea­man Guard Ohio, and ar­rested them for tak­ing weapons into In­dia’s ter­ri­to­rial wa­ters in Oc­to­ber 2013.

The charges were ini­tially quashed when the men ar­gued the weapons were law­fully held for an­tipiracy pur­poses and their pa­per­work, is­sued by the UK Govern­ment, was in or­der. But a lower court re­in­stated the pros­e­cu­tion and they were con­victed in Jan­uary last year and sen­tenced to five years jail.

Miss MacHugh said the govern­ment’s ef­forts “aren’t good enough”, adding: “I want them to openly say ‘We know the men are in­no­cent, re­lease them now’. And fight for them.”

The 28-year-old said Wil­liam is the best thing that has ever hap­pened to her, adding: “He’s shown me that I’ve got to be strong, and I can be strong. But it is hor­rific. Ev­ery sin­gle day . . . I’m now a sin­gle mum.”

Miss MacHugh said she thinks about get­ting mar­ried “ev­ery sin­gle day” and that her fi­ance would do any­thing to be at home with them. She said: “We don’t know what to do to have him re­leased. We don’t know if what we’re do­ing is right. We don’t know if it’s wrong. But we just know we have to do some­thing, and we’re try­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to bring him home.”

In the mean­time the six are fac­ing the prospect of an­other Christ­mas be­hind bars at Puzhal Prison, the vast pe­nal com­plex in Chen­nai, home to 3,000 in­mates in­clud­ing mur­der­ers and rapists.

The fam­i­lies lob­bied MPs yes­ter­day at Par­lia­ment be­fore hand­ing in the pe­ti­tion with 405,000 sig­na­tures at Num­ber 10.

“We’re try­ing to do ev­ery­thing we can to get him home”

FIGHT­ING HARD: Yvonne and Wil­liam lobby for ac­tion in Down­ing Street

Billy with Yvonne and their son Wil­liam

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