Fight to free former soldier from Indian jail

Yvonne and Billy.
Yvonne and Billy.

The brother of a former UK soldier who has been sentenced to five-years in prison in India is campaigning to get him freed.

Jamie Irving from Bearsden insists that his brother Billy innocent.

He was imprisoned for firearms charges in October 2013, along with five other ex-British soldiers and 29 crew members.

Customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition on board the ship which did not have permission to be in Indian waters.

Ex-Paratrooper Billy was working on an anti-piracy ship, owned by American company Advantfort, guarding an area which is known as ‘pirates alley’ between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea.

He says coastguards asked them to follow them into Indian territory to check the vessel.

The men have consistently denied any wrongdoing and claim they have been abandoned by their American employers.

East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson has also joined the campaign to get Billy freed. He plans to ask the foreign secretary to try to get him transferred to a Scottish jail.

Mr Nicolson said: “This case shows the sheer incompetence of the Indian justiciary and the unwillingness of the foreign office to help him.”

The charges against them were dropped a year ago and Billy was told he was free to leave the country but he claims that the police refused to return his passport to him.

He says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office also refused to give him a new passport because he already had one.

Since then the Indian authorities have appealed against the decision and won their case.

His fiancee Yvonne Machugh, from Glasgow, started a petition on Change.org - which has attracted support from 342,180 people - saying the men had been ‘wrongly arrested and imprisoned by Indian authorities while working to protect ships from pirate attacks’.

She has visited Billy in India and the couple now have a 10-month-old son together called William, whom he has met but not yet had the chance to get to know properly.

Billy’s health is now deteriorating due to the poor conditions in jail.

He says their court case is continually cancelled and he has lost a vast sum of money trying to prove his innocence.

The men have 90 days to appeal against the decision. Text FSGO66 £1 to 70070 to donate.