‘Chennai Six’ freed from Indian jail after Appeal Court acquittal

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Six former British soldiers have been released from an Indian prison four years after they were charged with weapons offences.

The so-called Chennai Six, who had been guards on a ship to combat piracy in the Indian Ocean, won an appeal against their convictions on Monday.

They were jailed in October 2013 after being charged with smuggling weapons and ammunition.

Yvonne MacHugh, partner of Billy Irving from Argyll and Bute, said the men had been released on Tuesday.

Ms MacHugh said: “They were released about two hours ago and are now at the British Embassy with consular staff.

“They will just go to a hotel in Chennai and will be able to sleep in a bed and have a proper shower for the first time in about two years.”

The men are Mr Irving, 37, from Argyll and Bute, Nick Dunn, 31 from 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 could now face a wait of possibly several weeks before documentation comes through which will allow them to return to the UK.

Once Mr Irving was freed, he was able to speak to Ms MacHugh on the embassy’s phone and update her on their situation.

Ms MacHugh said: “Billy called straight away, he couldn’t quite believe it had happened.

“He’s just over the moon and didn’t think they would be released. He took everything that was said with a pinch of salt and didn’t believe it.

“We are hoping they could be home in two weeks. If it’s less than that it will be a miracle.”

The men were escorted out of Puzhal Central Prison by British consular officials and were taken by car to the Deputy High Commission.

They were all allowed to make phone calls home and are now dealing with the logistics of where they will be staying.

Speaking on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme on Tuesday, Joanne Tomlinson, sister of Mr Armstrong, said: “He called me a couple of hours ago from the embassy.

“It was a very quick conversation and he spoke to my mum and dad as well.

“We were talking about where they are going to be staying and how he gets his belongings back which are being held by his friend in India.

“I’m hoping once he gets a proper meal into him we will be able to have a proper conversation.”