Togo President Intervenes To Secure Release of Jailed Indian Sailor

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By Johnlee Varghese | December 19, 2013 8:37 PM EST

Indian merchant navy sailor Captain Sunil James, who was arrested by the Togo authorities along with his sailors in July on charges of aiding pirates were released on Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs informed.

The release came after the Indian High Commissioner in Accra met with the Togo President Faure Gnassingbé, official spokesperson for Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin announced on his Twitter post. "Sailors from #India Capt Sunil James & Vijayan released from detention in #Togo. Will leave for home later today." the tweet said.

Authorities in Togo detained James and two of his colleagues on board the oil tanker, MT Ocean Centurion, on July 31. Reportedly, Captain James had stopped the ship to report an attack on MT Ocean Centurion by pirates but the Togo authorities instead arrested the crew of the oil tanker for allegedly aiding the pirates.

Sailors James and Vijayan were released and their custody has been taken over by K. Jeeva Sagar, High Commissioner of India in Accra, who will take them to Ghana and from there the crew will fly home.

India had been trying to secure the release of Captain James on compassionate grounds following the death of his 11-month baby. Captain James along with Vijayan is expected to arrive in Mumbai by Friday. 

The rise in piracy off the West African coast in the Gulf of Guinea, off coast of Nigeria, Togo, Ghana and neighbouring countries are presenting a new challenge to counter piracy operators.

Additionally,  twisted stance taken by countries such as Togo have triggered more conflicts for the international maritime community. On July 16 Captain James's ship was attacked by pirates. The pirates boarded the vessel,  kidnapped two of the staff, stole money and provisions and disembarked. The attack had left two injured, including Captian James.

However, when the crew reported the crime to the Togolese authorities, they were charged with conniving with the pirates. Hence Captain James along with two his crew was sent to jail to be prosecuted.

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