Sunday, December 10, 2017

Scots soldier jailed in India feels ‘betrayed’ by UK government

Billy Irving, 37, said he could “never forgive” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), accusing the government of failing to do enough to help.
Mr Irving touched down at Glasgow Airport on Wednesday, the first of the so-called Chennai Six to arrive back in the UK more than four years after they were jailed in India on weapons charges. He and five other British men were guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean but were jailed in October 2013 after being charged with carrying unlicensed firearms and ammunition. After years of campaigning, they won an appeal against their convictions last month and were given permission to leave India.
Mr Irving, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, told the Mail on Sunday newspaper: “I can never forgive the UK government and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. We would have been freed much sooner if they had really engaged in our plight and fought for us. I feel disgusted and betrayed.” Mr Irving’s fiancee Yvonne MacHugh, who campaigned tirelessly for his release, described former foreign secretary Philip Hammond as “next to useless and uninterested at best”. She accused current incumbent Boris Johnson of “hypocrisy” for saying the FCO had worked on the case “unstintingly”.
“Billy and the other men would have been free two years ago if they had been truly there for us,” she said.
The UK government said the case had been raised more than 50 times at ministerial level and nine times with the Indian prime minister since October 2013. An FCO spokeswoman said: “The Foreign Office worked tirelessly behind the scenes to reunite these men with their families.
10/12/17 Russel Jackson/Scotsman