Sturgeon called on to intervene over firearms charge Britons

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon.   Pic: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon. Pic: Lesley Martin/PA Wire
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The partner of a Scot jailed with five other former British soldiers - including two from Yorkshire - on firearms charges in India has called on Nicola Sturgeon to intervene in the case.

Billy Irving, from Connel, Argyll and Bute, was among a group of security guards on a US-owned ship when they were arrested in October 2013 on illegal weapons charges.

They were working for maritime company AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection when their ship - MV Seaman Guard Ohio, which had a crew of 35 - was detained and weapons were found.

In the following months the charges were dropped, but the Indian authorities appealed against the decision and the men were detained.

They were jailed for five years and fined 3,000 rupees (£30) last week.

Mr Irving’s partner Yvonne MacHugh said she was devastated by the ruling and that all six UK nationals would appeal.

Ms MacHugh, from Glasgow, previously started a petition on - which attracted the support of hundreds of thousands of people - saying the men had been ‘’wrongly arrested and imprisoned by Indian authorities while working to protect ships from pirate attacks’’.

She has visited her partner in India and the couple now have a 10-month-old son William.

Updating her campaign, Ms MacHugh called on Scotland’s First Minister to “do everything in your power to make sure the British government get these boys home”.

She said: “Last week my world fell apart when my fiance Billy Irving was sentenced to five years rigorous imprisonment in an Indian jail for a crime that he didn’t commit.

“Himself and five other Brits were arrested while protecting merchant seamen and vessels in high-risk pirate areas. These brave men have dedicated their whole lives to protecting others.

“We’ve now got over 300,000 signatures on this petition, calling for these men to be returned home.

“Myself and Billy are both proud Scots. I myself am fluent in Gaelic and Billy is a fantastic bagpipe player, and that is actually how we first met.

“I’m asking you, Nicola Sturgeon, to do everything in your power to make sure the British government get these boys home. I can’t have William growing up without his daddy.”

Mr Irving used to serve in the Parachute Regiment of the British Army.

The other jailed men are Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland; Ray Tindall from Chester; Paul Towers, from Yorkshire; John Armstrong, from Wigton, Cumbria; and Nicholas Simpson, from Catterick, North Yorkshire.

When they were jailed last week, a Foreign Office spokesman said: “Our staff in India and the UK have been in close contact with all six men since their arrest to provide support to them and their families, including attending court.

“Ministers have also raised this case at the highest levels, pressing for delays to be resolved.

“We recognise what a difficult time this is for those involved. There is now a 90-day window to appeal and we will continue to provide consular assistance.

“However, we cannot interfere in another country’s judicial process.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of this case and appreciate that this is a difficult time for Mr Irving and his family.

“There is now a 90-day window for Mr Irving to appeal. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Irving.”