Court Acquits Crew Members of US Anti-piracy Ship of All Charges

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On November 27, the Madras high court acquitted all crew members and guards of the US anti-piracy ship from all charges of the Arms Act.

What happened?

In October 2013, the vessel ‘Seaman Guard Ohio’ was impounded and its crew members were detained when the vessel entered the Indian waters. The crew was found to be in possession of illegal arms without prior permission.

Booked under Arms act:

The Q branch police in Tamil Nadu, India investigated the crew members and booked them under various Arms act including the Arms Act, IPC and the Essential Commodities Act.

In January 2016, the District and sessions court sentenced all the crew members to five years rigorous imprisonment and imposed a fine of Rs 3,000 on each of them. The crew members, including captain Dudnik Valentyn, filed appeals in high court against the verdict.

Acquitted of all charges:

The judgement for the case was pronounced by Justice A M Basheer Ahamed who said, “The prosecution had failed to prove that the Indian Coast Guard intercepted the vessel on October 12, 2013 within the territorial water of India. Besides, the prosecution had failed to prove that the ship had been engaged in any of the activities prejudicial to the peace, good order and security”.

He further added, “The prosecution had produced a map pertaining to location of the disputed vessel. However, the location of the vessel and the baseline drawn with pencil on map were not proved by competent witness. Besides, the person who drew the location of the ship had not been examined for which no reason was assigned. It was proved in this case the ship was anchored at the given place on account of distress for want of provisions and fuel. The ship never had intention of visiting Indian ports because the captain were waiting for further instructions and getting for provisions and fuel. It was Indian Coast Guard which moved the vessel from the out-port limit of Tuticorin into the berth in the port”.

Furthermore, a Ballistic expert had proved that the arms were semi-automatic arms on demonstration by himself before the trial court.

Also, a Ballistic expert had admitted that the arms were semi-automatic arms on demonstration by himself before the trial court.

Ordered to be released:

The judge ordered all the 35 crew members which included 12 Indians and 23 are foreign nationals (14 Estonians, six British nationals and three Ukrainians) who are lodged in various prisons to be released.

The judge said, “The accused are directed to be released forthwith unless their detention is required in connection with other cases. Their seized passports and documents are ordered to be returned in filing if proper application after getting acknowledgement”.

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Source: Times of India

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