The Mission to Seafarers has been informed by the crew of the Seaman Guard Ohio from India this week that they will not be released to leave, as they had eagerly anticipated. Instead, the Supreme Court Judge in Delhi has referred the case back to the Magistrate Court in Tuticorin, to go to full trial. This is grave news to the men, who have been held without trial for 625 days since 18 October 2013. The trial may take up to six months to begin.
Paul Towers, from the Seaman Guard Ohio crew, speaking from India this week, said: “The Supreme Court in Delhi issued the order for a trial on 1 July. We have now received the judgement and are taking urgent advice to understand the reasons for our case being referred back to the original court who imprisoned us, which is the Magistrate Court in Tuticorin. The decision to find that there were no charges to answer came from the High Court in Madurai on 10 July 2014, however we were unable to leave India, as our passports and belongings were retained by the court, and to that end we could not return home to our distraught families.
Obviously after long sleepless nights this week, we were devastated to hear that the Supreme Court has upheld the Prosecution appeal, after spending 21 months in India ourselves. Our families are beyond broken, both financially and mentally; to see my wife in tears is heart-breaking.
“The British maritime contractors have world recognized credentials to complete our duty for any shipping company. These credentials meet the International Maritime Organization and Maritime Coast Guard Authority (MCA) requirements and all shipping company requirements for the use of Private maritime security companies (PMSC) operating with privately contracted armed security personnel (PCASP), holding approved Seamens’ Cards and Discharge Books, Maritime Fire Arms Competency Certificates and who undertake Criminal Records Checks every six months. To be told these documents are worthless outside of the UK and to be treated like common criminals, is surely a gross abuse of our human rights, as indicated in the March 2015 by the Human Rights At Sea (HRAS) charity case study document which was issued to the press.”
I cannot express any further the pain and agony this has caused to our families and friends who have supported us throughout this protracted nightmare. My special thanks goes to Ken Peters Director of Justice and Public Affairs at The Mission to Seafarers, the British Legion and Veterans Aid UK, in their efforts to feed and accommodate us. Without this assistance we would be sleeping in the streets.”