Indian sailors refuse extradition to Nigeria, Union Minister says efforts on for release

Norwegian merchant ship
Indian sailors onboard Norwegian merchant ship that is in the custody of Equatorial Guinea.

Minister of State for External Affairs, V Muraleedharan said multiple Indian embassies are holding discussions with the authorities concerned in Equatorial Guinea for the release of Indian sailors in custody there.

Muraleedharan told mediapersons on Thursday that as far as they were aware, the sailors are safe. "The Minister for External Affairs (S Jaishankar) is regularly monitoring the situation, the families need not worry," Muraleedharan said.

According to the minister, of the 26 crew of the Norwegian merchant ship MT Heroic Idun, 15 are held captive in Equatorial Guinea and the others are onboard the ship.

Meanwhile, the sailors had refused to board another vessel that they believe would take them to Nigeria for custody and trial.

At present, 15 Indians, including two Malayalis are at the Luba Port in Equatorial Guinea. They reportedly refused to board another vessel until their fellow-crew members also joined them.

Muraleedharan, meanwhile, has said the fact that Embassy officials were able to meet the sailors twice shows that the governments of Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria are following international regulations under such situations.

"Our efforts are aimed at getting out sailors back home safely," he said.

The ship arrived at AKPO offshore terminal in Nigeria for refuelling on August 8. The vessel was taken into custody by the Equatorial Guinea Navy suspecting it was stealing oil.

The crew members have been stranded in the West African nation ever since.

Chief Officer Sanu Jose, Milton DCouth and Vijith Nair are the three Malayali members of the crew.

'Please help us'
Earlier on the day, the Malayali members of the crew had released a video in which they claimed they were at the Port of Luba.

"We were held at a facilitation centre at Malabo. Now we've been brought to the Luba Port. They had taken our phones away, but now we got it back. But we don't know when they will take it back. Please help us, we don't know what will happen to us if they extradite us to Nigeria," a Malayali crew member was heard saying in the video.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.