Earlier this year, the crew of the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio filed an appeal contesting sentences for alleged arms possession and illegal entry into Indian waters. However, after three years spent under arrest, they will still have to wait for resolution.
The 35 crewmembers and security guards aboard the Ohio were sentenced in January to five years of "rigorous imprisonment." Since sentencing, the men have been confined to a prison in Chennai. Their appeals trial was delayed until June, and on December 1, a high court in Madras decided not to decide the outcome of the appeal by "reserving its order" on the case.
The defense asserts that there were several procedural errors and omissions in the original trial, and that the trial court did not evaluate all available evidence regarding the facts of the case.
The Ohio was intercepted off of Tuticorin in 2013, and authorities found over 35 guns, 100 magazines and 5,500 rounds of ammunition on board. In addition, Indian law enforcement monitored the purchase of $40,000 worth of fuel from a ship's agent on shore, and the transfer of the fuel to the Ohio – all allegedly without permit and within Indian territorial waters.
The defense contends that the Ohio was not in territorial seas at the time of the fuel transfer, and was therefore outside of Indian jurisdiction.
It appears that AdvanFort Company, the vessel’s operator, has done little to help the men. The company’s owners, Samir Farajallah, the company’s chairman and CEO, and his son, Ahmed, who acted as the president of the U.S. based entity, stopped paying the crew’s salaries in November 2013. They have also done little to provide legal assistance, and have insisted that the cost of the defense is their insurer’s responsibility.
The charities Sailor's Society and Mission to Seafarers have provided much-needed aid to the crew during their trial and confinement. An advocacy group assembled by the families of the defendants has pressed the UK foreign ministry to intervene in the case.
Captain of Seaman Guard Ohio undergoes cancer treatment
The Hindu reports that the Ohio's captain, Ukrainian national M. Dudnik Valentyn, is undergoing treatment at Apollo Cancer Institute in Chennai for prostate cancer.
Police administrators have advised that there is no provision within prison regulations for Valentyn's wife to visit him at a private hospital while he is undergoing treatment.
The administrators' decision turns on a narrowly written rule which specifies a "prison hospital" as the location for any interview between a consulate and a foreign prisoner.