Yvonne MacHugh is petitioning the U.K. Government to free the six British veterans held in jail in India after being arrested from the Seaman Guard Ohio. MacHugh is the fiancee of one of the six, Billy Irving. The Maritime Executive spoke to her to find out what conditions are like for the men.
Do the men understand the legal procedures they are being subject to?
The men understand the legal procedures....but the judicial process hasn't always followed legal process, and that's the frustrating part. Bail should have been automatically granted to them in January 2016 when the sentence was handed to them. Instead they left the court room in prison buses and were taken straight to a prison leaving all their possessions in their hostel rooms. Throughout this entire case the legal process rules have been bent in favor of the Indian police wanting to incarcerate our men for as long as possible for no good reason.
How are they being treated in jail?
The men aren't being treated well in prison. They have minimal food rations and if it wasn't for the care packages being sent out by the public and family, they would struggle. The captain has cancer and is extremely ill, yet he is being refused vital hospital treatment to give him a chance at life. The men have suffered discrimination because they are British. They suffer mental torture on a daily basis, and some have been beaten by prison staff.
Can the families communicate directly with the men?
The communication between the men and families is minimal. We can only communicate via letters. Despite requests from lawyers and family, time and time again the prison will not allow them phone calls home; something the Indian prisons are allowed.
What support have you received?
We have had phenomenal support from charities. The Mission to Seafarers has been there for the men and their families from day one and continue to support us on a daily basis. Human Rights at Sea has also been a big supporter of the men, as well as Prisoners Abroad and the Royal British Legion.
Why are you campaigning through #Chennai6?
I wont ever be satisfied by the action taken by all the governments involved until all our men are returned home and cleared of any wrong doing. I know they are doing a lot...they've had talks with Indian governments, and ministers have also visited the men in prison. However they still have not said openly and publicly that our men are innocent despite knowing without a shadow of a doubt they are. Until our men are home no one has done enough
What help have you had from the mens' employer?
Advanfort are a sad excuse for a company. They completely abandoned their employees; they stopped paying wages leaving families in financial difficulty and they refused to pay lawyers leaving the men to fund a legal case that should never have even have gone to court. They have never offered the men or their families any kind of support and to this day have never apologized for any of their actions.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.