MP’s new bid to free Scot from Indian hell jail

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East Renfrewshire MP Paul Masterton has launched a new bid to free local man Billy Irving, who since 2013 has languished in an Indian jail.

Together with five other UK nationals - all hired to defend shipping against Somali pirates - former paratrooper Mr Irving is imprisoned in Chennai, where he is serving a five year sentence.

Legions of supporters, from film stars to politicians, regard the decision to jail him as an affront to justice.

His partner Yvonne McHugh, who lives in Neilston with their toddler son William, has waged an unremitting campaign to secure justice for Billy and his colleagues, who are often referred to as “the Chennai Six”.

She has visited the primitive jail where the men are incarcerated and is among those shocked at the conditions they are forced to endure.

The men’s nightmare began when the ship they were manning drifted into Indian territorial waters, carrying arms intended for defence against the pirates which infest the Indian Ocean.

The paperwork for these weapons was in order, but despite an Indian national court decision to free the men the local judiciary in Chennai insisted on jailing them.

Now, following efforts by Kirsten Oswald, who was MP until this month’s General Election, Mr Masterton has become the latest politician to take up the men’s cause.

He has met with Rory Stewart MP, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to press the UK Government to “continue its work” to free Mr Irving.

He has also written to the Rt Hon Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, whose responsibility covers India to arrange a meeting.

The six ex-paratroopers were working for Advanfort, a US maritime security company, to protect ships in international waters when they were arrested in October 2013 for the alleged firearms offences.

Mr Masterson said: “This was an issue that my predecessor first raised with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and I intend to breath new life into it to ensure as much pressure as possible is brought to bear to secure the release of Billy Irving.

“Mr Irving’s fiancée and young son are my constituents and they will receive my full support.

“I cannot imagine the stress and worry that this must be causing for them.

“Hopefully alongside other Members of Parliament whose constituents are detained with Mr Irving we can work with Ministers to exert substantial pressure for their release.”