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THE Neilston fiancee of a man being held in India on firearms offences has told of how her joy at seeing him after eight months amidst claims he and fellow prisoners are being denied basic human rights in jail.

Billy Irving, 37, from Connel, Argyll and Bute, and other British anti-piracy security guards were jailed for five years last January for possession of illegal weapons after they were arrested while aboard the ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio.

They were detained after the vessel strayed into Indian waters without permission in October, 2012. Now Mr Irving’s partner Yvonne MacHugh has told of her "complete high" after finally visiting him in Puzhal Prison, near Chennai.

Evening Times:

"It's a strange feeling. I shouldn't be happy seeing the man I love in a prison thousands of miles from home, knowing he is completely innocent. But I am...I'm just so happy to finally speak to him again after eight long painful months of no telecommunication.

"I'm so happy to be held by him and hear him tell me he loves me. But most of all I am so happy that he is okay."

She says she has four visits with him and will "treasure each one".

"I have no doubt that the last visit will be the hardest and I probably won't walk out those prison gates with a smile on my face like I did today, but I really don't want to dwell on that final visit. I just want to enjoy each and every second I get to spend with him," she said.

But frustration over the legal processes in India have continued, with families still awaiting a verdict over an appeal after uncovering evidence that the security workers had all the proper documentation for their weapons.

"I saw a few of the other men briefly and they all looked surprisingly well which was a huge comfort," she said. "They gave me a shopping list of essentials they needed and letters to pass onto their families.

Evening Times:

"Knowing how incredible they are, the strength they are showing, and the fight they still have in them to prove their innocence and return home as free men, has given me the strength to carry on their plight when I return home. I'll forever be in owe of them."

She appealed for people to keep sending letters and cards to the men saying: "You've no idea the happiness it brought them during the darkest of days."

She spoke as one documentary maker claimed theForeign Office had received complaints from the men about how their basic human rights were being infringed in the prison.

Emile Ghessen who has visited the prison said she received letters from the men which talked of physical abuse from the guards, that they have to buy their own clean water to drink, and are restricted to one meal a day.

She said the often have to go long periods without water to wash, been forced to sleep on the floor and face constant power cuts in immense heat.

"From what I saw with my own eyes, and from what I'm being told, their living standards are far below basic. It is clear these men are being denied basic human rights," she said.

"This should not be allowed to happen to British citizens who were simply passengers on a boat...

"The six former British soldiers are, when you look at all the evidence, not terrorists or spies and are innocent of weapon smuggling charges and are being denied their basic human rights. They are simply family men who were protecting ships against Somalian pirates and were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

The British men being held in India were all working for the US maritime security firm AdvanFort providing anti-piracy protection in the Indian Ocean when their ship was detained.

Evening Times:

Once they boarded the vessel, Indian customs officials and police found 35 guns, including semi-automatic weapons, and almost 6,000 rounds of ammunition.

The prisoners were held for six months before the charges were inexplicably dropped. But Mr Irving was prohibited from returning home until the conclusion of a police appeal which eventually led to the men being jailed.

The FCO said staff in India have been providing support to all six men since their arrest and were working to make sure their welfare is protected in prison.

An FCO spokeswoman said: "We recognise what a difficult time this is for those involved and we have taken significant action on this case.

"Foreign Office staff in India have been providing support to all six men since their arrest and are working to make sure their welfare is protected in prison. We are also in regular contact with their families in the UK.”