Indian sailors detained for five months released in Togo

New Delhi — Togo has freed two Indian sailors imprisoned since July after India appealed to President Faure Gnassingbe for their release on compassionate grounds, an official said Thursday.

Captain Sunil James and a crew member known only as Vijayan were detained five months ago on charges of aiding pirates who attacked their merchant ship, the Ocean Centurion, off the Nigerian coast, the officials said.

They were accused of helping the pirates after reporting the July 16 incident to Togo authorities, according to local media reports.

“The two Indian sailors have been released (and) we are making arrangements for their return to India at an early date,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told CNN-IBN.

“We hope that captain Sunil James will be reunited with his family latest by tomorrow morning,” the spokesman said, confirming the release after India’s High Commissioner to Ghana met with the president.

The family has been campaigning for James’ release on compassionate grounds following the death of his 11-month-old son, who died earlier this month from septicemia.

The boy’s body has been kept in a morgue since his death in the hope James could be released to attend a funeral.

“It came as a surprise. We didn’t have hope until yesterday. We are relieved,” his wife Aditi told NDTV.

James’ family met the foreign minister on Wednesday, after holding talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week to seek his help in getting the sailor released.

The foreign ministry spokesman did not give details of the second released Indian mariner who was arrested at the same time.

India has joined an international effort to protect merchant vessels from pirates in the Indian Ocean, and in particular ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Eden.


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