'Chennai Six' hoping to be freed from prison in India

The so-called Chennai Six are to be given a verdict on whether they should be released from prison in India, after more than four years in the country.

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 the captain of the vessel, Dudnyk Valentyn of Ukraine, repatriated.

Family members of the Chennai Six
Family members of the Chennai Six (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The men are Billy Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute, 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.

They will receive the judgment on Monday.

Mr Irving's partner, Yvonne MacHugh, said he had missed the birth of their son, William, who is now two and a half.

She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "He missed the birth of his son and missed the whole pregnancy. He's just missed out on so much his whole life that I just hope we get the verdict we need today."

She added: "He was three months old when I got to take him over to India; Billy was still a free man at that point, there were no charges against them, but the police had appealed the charges and they were going through a very long court process so he got to see him for two weeks outside of prison and I've since taken William over to visit his father.

"But that has been in prison and that's been one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

She said the men were working as maritime security officers and were resting on board a vessel they used as an office, doing a "perfectly legitimate job" with weapons licences issued by the British Government, adding "everything was perfectly above board and legal".

She told the BBC: "The Indian coastguard had actually been out to visit the vessel two weeks prior to the arrest because there were fishing lines caught on one of the propellers. They had went out (sic), released the fishing lines, checked over the ship, checked ammunition, checked the guns and gave this ship a clean check and made sure that everything was OK, approved that they were there.

"Two weeks later they then called them into port, arrested every single person on board that ship and threw them into prison. That has been the biggest mystery of this whole case: why did they want to arrest 35 innocent men? Why were they adamant that they had to be in prison?

"They had never hurt anyone, they had no intentions of hurting anyone, all they were doing was protecting seafarers - Indian seafarers, British seafarers, seafarers from all over the world, yet they've been put in prison and languished there for four years."

The family of Nick Dunn, from Ashington, Northumberland, gathered together as they waited to hear if the news was good.

Sipping champagne, his sister, Lisa, said: "This is the best champagne in the world, it tastes like the best drink. The longer it went on, as much as you still have an element of hope, it does dwindle after having so many delays and setbacks.

"But that hasn't happened today and we've had the best news ever. It will make all of our Christmases, all of our dreams have come true today."

Mr Dunn's father, Jim, said: "Absolutely fantastic, the best news in the world. We haven't been a full family for a long time now. Nick won't fully realise it's over until his feet touch down in Newcastle."

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