Push to free AdvanFort men

Men have been held for more than 760 days.

Renewed bid to bring home ex-soldiers trapped in India

The fiancée of a Scot detained in India due to a dispute over anti-piracy operations has called for him and five other Britons to be brought home in time for Christmas.

She “can’t bear” to celebrate their son’s first Christmas apart, she said.

Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll, is one of six British men held for more than 760 days on the charges.

Yvonne MacHugh has relaunched a petition to UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond.

Ms MacHugh, 27, from Glasgow, said it breaks her heart that Mr Irving and the five other men – all ex-soldiers in the British Army – are still stuck out in India, in what she called a “nightmare” scenario.

Along with Mr Irving, the men arrested on 12 October 2013 are:

  • Ray Tindall from Chester
  • Paul Towers from Pocklington, East Yorkshire
  • John Armstrong from Wigton, Cumbria
  • Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire
  • Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland

“I can’t bear to celebrate our baby boy’s first Christmas without his dad,” Ms MacHugh said.

“I’m left without the man that I love, the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

“We’re supposed to be planning a wedding and bringing up our wee boy together and all that’s been taken off us.”

In 2013, Ms MacHugh started a petition – which attracted the support of more than 150,000 people – saying the men had been “wrongly arrested and imprisoned by Indian authorities while working to protect ships from pirate attacks”.

She has re-launched it this week with the call for them to be brought home by Christmas.

‘No control’

She wrote on the petition: “The British government is their only hope. These boys are ex-soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. They devoted their lives to their country and now they need our country’s help.”

She said: “I just felt I had to do something. I just don’t see an end to it at all. None of it seems to make sense.

“Despite them being innocent, it just scares me that that might not come through in court and they could be prosecuted for something that they have no control over or they’ve not done.”

The men were working for US maritime company AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection when their ship – MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which had a crew of 35 – was detained.

After being told the case against them was quashed, Indian prosecutors applied for a retrial, which is now ongoing.

Relatives had hoped the guards would have been allowed home by October this year, because of what they said was the weakness of the case, but the six still remain in India.

Ms MacHugh has daily contact with Mr Irving over Skype, and she and their son visited India earlier this year.

But, she said, her life is on hold as she waits for her partner to return.

“It’s horrible, I can’t even describe how it feels,” she said.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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