Case against Chennai Six ‘utter nonsense’

Yvonne McHugh (centre), the girlfriend of Billy Irving who is being held in a prison in Chennai in India, is joined by family members of other prisoners including Lisa Dunn (second left). The partner of one of the so-called Chennai Six has described the case against them as "utter nonsense" ahead of a verdict in their appeal. Picture: PA
Yvonne McHugh (centre), the girlfriend of Billy Irving who is being held in a prison in Chennai in India, is joined by family members of other prisoners including Lisa Dunn (second left). The partner of one of the so-called Chennai Six has described the case against them as "utter nonsense" ahead of a verdict in their appeal. Picture: PA
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The partner of one of the so-called Chennai Six has described the case against them as “utter nonsense” ahead of a verdict in their appeal.

Loved ones of the British men currently in prison in Chennai, India, have been campaigning for their release since they were arrested in October 2013.

The six were first jailed on weapons charges while working as security guards on ships to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean.

Their latest appeal concluded on November 20 in a hearing which saw captain of the vessel, Dudnyk Valentyn of Ukraine, repatriated.

They will receive the judgment today.

Partner of Billy Irving, Yvonne MacHugh, said: “What I’m expecting is the unexpected. For the whole time this has been going on we have looked at the worst and best situations, but it’s never anything you can imagine that happens.

“The best outcome would be he’s home before Christmas.”

The 29-year-old mother returned from a six-day trip to India on 19 November.

Mr Irvine, 37, from Connel in Argyll and Bute, tried to put on a brave face but there was “sadness in his eyes”, she said.

Ms MacHugh added: “They’ll be staying grounded and not expecting much, they’re just so tired now.

“I would just like the judge to look at why these men have been put in prison for all these years.

“They have never harmed anyone, they’ve only ever tried to protect people.

“What good are they doing in keeping these men from their children and wives?

“If they had any morals at all they would see this case is complete and utter nonsense.”

The five other men are Nick Dunn, 31, of Northumberland, John Armstrong, 30, of Wigton, Cumbria, Nicholas Simpson, 47, of Catterick, North Yorkshire, Ray Tindall, 42, of Chester, and Paul Towers, 54, of Pocklington, East Yorkshire.

Legal proceedings against the six former soldiers began in September 2015.

Earlier this year Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the UK would ‘’leave no stone unturned’’ in securing their release.

In 2013 the Indian coastguard boarded their vessel, the MV Seaman Guard Ohio, and arrested them for taking weapons into India’s territorial waters.

The charges were initially quashed when the men argued the weapons were lawfully held for anti-piracy purposes and their paperwork, issued by the UK Government, was in order.

But a lower court reinstated the prosecution and they were convicted in January last year and sentenced to five years jail.

Since then there has been a series of appeals as the families navigate the Indian legal system.

In July Prime Minister Theresa May raised the plight of men with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit

The families lobbied MPs at Parliament in October before handing in a petition with 405,000 signatures at Number 10.