[ACNS] The international Anglican mission agency which supports seafarers through missions in 260 ports around the world, has spoken out against the conviction of 35 crewmen of the anti-piracy ship MV Seaman Guard Ohio (SGO) by a court in India. The 10 crew and 25 guards have been sentenced to five years in an Indian prison for carrying illegal arms; but the Mission to Seafarers say that the crew were entitled to do so under international law.
“I am horrified and filled with anguish at this decision which is deeply unfair and unjust,” Mission to Seafarers’ director of justice and public affairs, Ken Peters, said. “These men are seafarers but it seems the court did not accept the basic fact that the ship was and is an anti-piracy vessel.
“The men carried arms in accordance with international maritime law for the purpose of ensuring the merchant fleet was protected properly from the very real risk of pirate attacks and hijack. The men have already suffered so much so this is a terrible outcome. It is beyond belief.”
Mission to Seafarers (MtS) has been supporting some of the crew and their families and say that “The men and families are deeply shocked and devastated at this decision and are stunned that the evidence has not irrefutably proven that the men were acting legally under international maritime law.
“The SGO is an anti-piracy support ship that carries crew and guards to protect merchant shipping.”
Mr Peters added that “We understand that the men's defence team are examining the possibility of an appeal.”
The crew were convicted of carrying illegal arms, illegal refuelling and unlawfully entering Indian waters off the coast of Tuticorin on 18 October 2013. They have been held in India ever since and have vehemently protested their innocence.