Sailor held after claims boat was carrying weapons

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A SCOTTISH sailor is one of a group in custody in an Indian jail after authorities claimed their boat was illegally carrying weapons.

William (Billy) Irving was among 33 people arrested on Friday – two weeks after their boat, the US-owned MV Seaman Guard Ohio, was detained at 
Tuticorin port in southern Tamil Nadu state. The crew includes Indians, Ukrainians and Estonians as well as six Britons.

Mr Irving grew up in Campbeltown, but now lives in Conel, in Argyll and Bute. His job is listed on Facebook as tactical deployment officer at Advanfort – the Washington-based maritime security firm which owns the ship, which is said to have been carrying out anti-piracy operations in the area.

He is previously believed to have served in the Special Forces in the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

His girlfriend, Yvonne 
MacHugh, has put out a plea to friends on Facebook to sign a petition on Change.org asking the Indian government to release the sailors.

“Please sign the petition and help get Billy home as soon as possible … it takes 2 minutes,” she wrote.

In a separate post, she said: “Before I go to bed tonight I’ll say a prayer, and I hope everyone else does the same.”

The crew have been charged with illegal procurement of diesel and possession of arms and ammunitions without required documentation. Indian foreign secretary Sujata Singh confirmed late last week that the 33 crew members had been arrested.

AdvanFort has denied the charges and has insisted it was involved in supporting anti-piracy operations in the Indian Ocean, where it said all of the weapons it kept on board were registered.

Its president, William H Watson, has deemed the action “inappropriate” and said it was “working diplomatically and through the judicial system” to get its people released.

It last week issued a statement saying India’s coastguard and police had allowed the vessel to enter the port to refuel and shelter from a cyclone.

The southern tip of India is close to major trading routes from Asia to Europe. Many cargo ships now travel with armed guards to deter pirates.