35 crew members of US ship get 5-yr jail term

35 crew members of US ship get 5-yr jail term

A court in Tuticorin district of Tamil Nadu sentenced 35 crew members of US-based ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio to five years rigorous imprisonment even as the ship authorities planned to move High Court against the judgement.

The American anti-piracy ship was detained by Coast Guard in October, 13, 2013 off Tuticorin coast on the charges of carrying several weapons and ammunition illegally.
Pronouncing the judgement, Thoothukudi principal sessions court Judge Rajasekar also slapped fine of Rs 3,000 each on the crew members comprising 14 Estonian, 12 Indians, six British and three Ukranians nationals.

Citing lack of evidence, the judge acquitted eight accused belonging to Tamil Nadu, who supplied diesel to the ship. All the crew members of the ship were present in the court when the judgement was delivered.

"We will move High Court since the judgement was against us. We hope justice will be rendered to the crew, who had not indulged in any crime", Subramanian Adhitian, advocate for crew members said.

The police also seized 35 fire arms, 5,682 ammunition and 102 magazines, which were kept in the ship without any documents and authorization certificates. The state police also charged that the ship had drawn illegally 1,500 litres of diesel from private sources.

Subsequently, all the crew members, who were arrested by Tamil Nadu police on October 18, 2014, had been granted conditional bail by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in March, 2014.

The crew members have filed a petition in the Madras High Court to discharge them against the charges. Subsequently, the Court had quashed the charges under the provisions of the Arms Act.

However, Tamil Nadu police filed an appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the high court order.