Vessel didn't enter Indian waters: US firm

The company owning the seized US ship M V Seaman Guard Ohio on Wednesday told a court that the vessel neither strayed into Indian waters, nor was there any illegality in carrying arms and ammunition. 

Opposing the plea for seven-day police custody of three of the 35 arrested crew members, counsel for AdvanFort submitted before the judicial magistrate court I that the vessel was off the Indian waters when it was detained on October 12.

When the matter was taken up for hearing by Magistrate C Kathiravan, counsel Anshuman Tiwari argued that there was no need for further custodial interrogation of the crew members as the Q Branch had already completed several rounds of questioning, besides a preliminary probe by the Indian Coast Guard.

Claiming that the US vessel was “very much off the Indian territorial waters,”  counsel said there was no illegality, whatsoever, regarding “the ship or the arms.” He contended that the arms were carried for protection against pirates. 

Countering the argument, the state government’s advocate said the ship had strayed well into the Indian waters. Besides, there was no proper document or permission for the vessel.

Magistrate Kathiravan adjourned the matter to Thursday. Police had sought custody of two Indians—Lalit Kumar Gurung and Radhesh Dhar Dwivedi—and UK national Paul Towers for further interrogation.

Meanwhile, bail petitions have been filed before a sessions court here seeking release of all 35 crew members, arrested on October 18 on the charges of illegally carrying arms and purchasing diesel.

In another development, 22 foreign crew members of the ship were shifted from the Palayamkottai Central Prison in Tirunelveli to the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai, after they complained of poor living conditions in jail. 

However, Additional Director General of Police J K Tripathy told Deccan Herald that it was a normal practice to lodge foreign nationals at the Puzhal prison. “It is a usual procedure,” he said. “If a foreigner is arrested anywhere in the state, he or she will be brought here.”

According to him, all but one foreign national were shifted to the Chennai prison in a van on Wednesday morning amid tight security.

“The other crew members of Indian origin will be lodged at the Palyamkottai jail till the investigation is completed,” a senior official at the state police headquarters said.

Prison officials said a senior official from the Ukraine Embassy in Delhi met three crew members, including master of the ship, Dudnik Valentyn from Ukraine and discussed the case filed against them.

Engineer of the ship, Sidorenko Valeriy, who allegedly tried to commit suicide after his arrest, underwent counselling.

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