AFTER repeatedly failing to get the 91 foreign nationals held hostage by Somali pirates in 2011 to depose as witnesses, Mumbai Police have decided to approach embassies and foreign ministries of their countries through the ministry of external affairs.
Four cases of hijacking by 120 Somali pirates clubbed together are being heard by Sewri Sessions Court for the past one year. The trial is being conducted through video-conferencing.
Indian Navy arrested the pirates between January and March 2011 and rescued around 91 Pakistani, Mozambique, Thai, Iranian, Myanmar and Indonesian nationals. While 27 Indian witnesses, including naval officers, were examined till February, police said the hostages continued to avoid deposing.
The state has sanctioned Rs 20.95 lakh for accommodation and travel of the witnesses on the request of special public prosecutor Ranjeet Sangle.
Of the six countries that have been sent requests, Mozambique, Iran and Indonesia have responded. However, they are yet to confirm arrival details of witnesses, said police.
Krishna Prakash, additional commissioner of police (south region), said embassies had earlier said they would send their nationals if travel expense was paid.
“The government agreed to this last month and sanctioned the amount. However, the other countries have not reverted,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Somali government has offered assistance to Mumbai Police and agreed to provide a detailed background of the pirates involved.
Officials at International Maritime Bureau said most Somali pirates, caught with heavy equipment such as AK-47s and rocket launchers, were poor and were used as foot soldiers by cartels. They said most of the pirates were employed for their expertise in operating high-speed skiffs.
“The witnesses have recorded statements before the court but we need them to be present to confirm testimonies,” Prakash said.
The trial was earlier stuck as police took time to hire an interpreter to communicate with the pirates. The pirates have been charged under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, under IPC for attempt to murder, unlawful assembly, criminal intimidation, criminal conspiracy, kidnapping and carrying weapons and waging a war against India and under Arms Act.