An Indian merchant navy captain and his associate, jailed for the last five months in western Africa’s Togo, have been released following pressure from New Delhi.
With media attention on India’s moves to rescue its diplomat, Devyani Khobragade, briefly arrested in the United States, pressure mounted on New Delhi to mount a similar effort to free another of its citizens incarcerated in Togo.
A flurry of calls from top Indian ministers and diplomats to their Togo counterparts resulted in the release of Sunil James, a merchant navy captain and sailor Vijayan who were arrested in July. The family had also met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to seek his intervention.
The two sailors were arrested for reportedly cooperating with pirates who had attacked and looted their ship, MT Ocean Centurion, near the tiny African country of Togo, bordering Ghana in July this year.
Reports on Thursday quoting Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry, said Sunil James and Vijayan were released after Indian High Commissioner in Ghana K Jeeva Sagar met Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe.
James’s wife Aditi was quoted as saying, “It came as a surprise. We didn’t have hope until yesterday. We are relieved.”
Earlier in December, James’s 11-month-old son, Vivaan, died of septicaemia in the Indian city of Mumbai. The family has refused to bury him until James returned to have a last glimpse at the baby.
Since the last few days, when reports of India’s diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest hit the headlines, the family has made fervent pleas for help from the Indian government.
Aditi had told a television news channel, “We are very disappointed. On one hand we are proud that we have taken a stand for Devyani in her case, on the other hand we see a common man like us struggling for the past five months.”