Indian officials to meet captured sailors on Nigerian coast, says Muraleedharan

The 26 sailors, including 16 Indians - the crew of the Norway ship Heroic Idun, have been detained by the navy of Guinea, a West African country, allegedly for crossing their sea boundaries: Manorama Online

Kochi: Efforts are on to secure the release of the 26 sailors who have been held in Equatorial Guinea, Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said here on Saturday. The minister confirmed that the captured Norwegian vessel -- MT Heroic Idun – and its sailors were being shifted to Nigeria.

"The Indian Embassy officials will be able to meet the sailors when they reach the Nigerian coast," the minister told the media after visiting the family of Chief Officer Sanu Jose, one of the sailors in custody. Muraleedharan told the kin of Jose that he has spoken to the Nigerian high commissioner and assured them that there is nothing to worry.

"The External Affairs Ministry is intervening in the issue actively in accordance with international laws. Talks with Guinea and Nigeria are on. The government will do everything possible legally," he said.

The minister visited the family of the sailor to convey to them the steps taken by the central government.

Meanwhile, the relatives of the sailors have received information that the owners of the vessel and their lawyers have already reached Nigeria. The families have not been able to contact the sailors after they were handed over to the Nigerian Navy. It is suspected that their phones have been seized.

Nigeria is adamant that the sailors should be tried in court. The charges against them will be slapped once they reach the country.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had on Tuesday urged the Centre to intervene and ensure the release of the Indian sailors, including three from the state, held in Equatorial Guinea. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vijayan requested him to direct Indian diplomatic missions in the countries concerned -- Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria -- to proactively intervene and facilitate the immediate release of the Norwegian vessel -- MT Heroic Idun -- and its crew who have been detained since August 12.

In his letter, the CM contended that the vessel was held by an Equatorial Guinea naval ship in international waters on August 12 and as per reports, a total of 26 crew, including 16 Indians, are being held as hostages.

Vijayan also claimed that even though the vessel did not engage in any unlawful activities, the shipping company was ready to pay the fine to facilitate the early release of the seafarers.

The CM sent the letter after videos and photos sent by the detained Kerala sailors to their families started widely circulating on social media as well as news channels.

One of the videos is by Vijith Nair, the brother of Vismaya who committed suicide in June last year due to dowry harassment -- an incident which led to a widespread debate in the state regarding this practice.

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