A former British soldier has said it “feels excellent to be home” as the first of the Chennai Six arrived back in the UK, more than four years after they were jailed in India on weapons charges.
Billy Irving was greeted by family and two bagpipers after touching down at Glasgow Airport on Wednesday to be home in time for Christmas.
He and five other British men had been 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 week and were given permission to leave India.
Mr Irving was hugged in the airport arrivals hall by family members who had made signs reading “Welcome home Billy”.
He stopped briefly to speak to the media and expressed his thanks to supporters of the campaign for his release.
Billy Irving is welcomed back to Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Mr Irving, from Argyll and Bute, said: “I’d just like to give a massive thank you to everyone who supported all of the Chennai Six, all of the 35 men throughout.
“I just want to thank everyone, they’ve been so kind. Thank you for your support, thank you so much. It feels excellent to be home.”
Two pipers played outside the terminal to welcome the 37-year-old, who had cut his hair and beard since the most recent pictures of him in India last week.
The other five men – Nick Dunn, John Armstrong, Nicholas Simpson, Ray Tindall and Paul Towers – are expected to arrive in the UK on Thursday.
A warm welcome in Glasgow (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said earlier: “It is wonderful news that the men are returning to the UK.
“The Foreign Office has worked unstintingly on this case, lobbying on the men’s behalf, visiting them in prison, updating their families and maintaining close contact with their legal team.
“I pay tribute to those who have campaigned for the men, who will be delighted to see them return home after being separated for so long.”