MADURAI: The 35 crew members of a private US Ship, who were arrested on charges of carrying weapons illegally and straying into Indian waters, today filed a fresh bail application at the Madras High court bench here, saying they were languishing in jail, and two months had elapsed after the filing of charge-sheet.
The crew of M V Seaman Guard Ohio were arrested by Tamil Nadu Police after the ship was intercepted by Coast Guard on October 18 last year. They were booked under the Arms Act and also the Essential Commodities Act for “illegal” purchase of diesel from local agents.
The crew members, include 12 Indians.
In their bail application, the crew said most of them had developed physical ailments, and alleged that they were being subjected to mental harassment and emotional trauma.
Their medical reports proved that their health had been adversely affected and they had lost many pounds due to lack of proper food and other amenities.
Their continued judicial custody was a blatant violation of their Human rights and was contrary to Union of India’s treaty obligations in the Maritime as well as in the foreign relations sector, the bail application said.
Even according to the charge-sheet only Radesh Dhar Dwivedi and Sidorenko Valeriy (Chief Engineer) were mainly responsible for the control over administration of the vessel.
Thirty-one accused in the case were only occupants of the ship, the application said.
There was no prima facie case made out against the accused. The laws invoked were also not applicable to the petitioners, it was contended.
The application said the charge-sheet was filed and investigation had been completed. The antecedents and track records of the accused were relevant to prove their integrity and bonafides. There need not be any apprehension that they would avoid the processes of the court, it was submitted.
The petition is likely to be taken up on Monday.
The bench had dismissed their bail pleas earlier on December 18.
On February 13, ‘Q’-branch inspector and investigation officer R D Baskaran had filed his detailed counter.
He argued that the captain of the vessel failed to produce the necessary documents, though he had agreed to produce them in one hour.
Besides, there was no response from the ship company though e-mail request to submit papers was made.–PTI
Maritime Security News Note:
This sorry tale has taken far too long to be resolved. Over and above the legal niceties involved, the 35 really shouldn’t have been left in an Indian jail for this long. The ship was originally arrested by the Indian Coast Guard on October 12th, 2013, and then detained on October 18th on charges of trespassing in to Indian waters and possessing weapons. Bail has continued to elude the crew and operators who were on board at the time and in a court appearance on December 30th 2013, the Indian Police’s Q-Branch filed a 2,158 page charge sheet against them. It has already driven the ship’s Chief Engineer, Ukrainian Siderenko Veleriy, to attempt suicide.
Custody of the men was extended until tomorrow (February 25th), when hopefully, common sense will prevail.
India is fiercely protective of its borders, and hugely concerned that weapons on board maritime security company floating armouries could fall in to the hands of terrorists. There are even concerns that maritime security operators could be terrorists in disguise. In the midst of that, we have 35 men separated from their families and trapped inside an Indian jail.
The ship is owned by AdvanFort, a US-based maritime security company who are no strangers to headlines. Last year, they were barred from purchasing and possessing firearms in the USA and have lost many of their senior company officers and consultants in the last few months.
John A C Cartner, a Master and attorney who once served on the AdvanFort advisory board, made his feelings very clear in a scathing article on the owner of the company, Samir Farajallah.
Incidents like this are precisely why the maritime security industry needs things like ISO PAS 28007. A set of internationally recognised regulations and standards that are not only hard to obtain in the first place, but which are then regularly audited and adhered to. Only through regulation and transparency will the maritime security industry shrug off the negative light so many see it in.