Three members of a foreign crew, who were arrested in July last year and are under trial in connection with an accident around 14 nautical miles away from the Kochi port in 2017, have been demanding that the authorities either punish them or let them go.
Deserted by their shipping firm and virtually under house arrest at a private hotel in Willingdon Island in Kochi, the trio’s accommodation, food and medical expenses are being taken care of by insurance firm P&I, but lack of any additional financial help has left their families in distress, according to sources.
Two men were killed, one went missing and eight others were rescued after Amber L, a Greek vessel carrying urea, collided with Carmel Matha carrying 11 fishermen on June 11, 2017, night. Amber L was seized and a probe by Mercantile Marine Department under DG Shipping concluded that the fishing vessel was hit by the Greek ship, which was reportedly proceeding towards Kochi for refuelling. Read this story in Malayalam
Two Greek nationals — Captain Georgiannakis Ioannis and Second Officer Galanos Athanasios — have been charged with culpable homicide along with Myanmar citizen Zewana. They are on bail but have not been allowed to leave the city.
The firm that owns and operates the vessel got it released after paying Rs 6.5 crore on the orders of a district court in Kochi which is hearing the case.
On the basis of a report by MMD joint director Ajith Kumar Sukumar, the court had ordered that the trio’s living expenses must be looked after by the shipping or insurance firms, but P&I doesn’t cover additional expenses.
Athanasios had told police that the accident happened by mistake and they should either be punished if it was their fault or allowed to return to their country.
“To become a criminal offence, there has to be a leading motive… Their country, their police, their laws are not with them,” said Thomas Sebastian, an inspector in Kochi attached to International Transport Workers Federation.
Athanasios was in a private hospital in Kochi till last week after he began a hunger strike to demand better allowances for him and his colleagues and assistance from the Greek embassy and shipping firm they worked for. “Every month, the insurance agent would give us Rs 100. What can we do with it? Back home, Rs 100 is equal to a euro. How can we live for a month with Rs 100?” Athanasios said. Georgiannakis and Zewana declined to speak to The Indian Express.
In response to an e-mail from The Indian Express, the Greek embassy in New Delhi said, “…the embassy has been in close telephone contact, almost every day, with both Greeks…” However, Athanasios said in last 18 months, only three people from the embassy meet them
A petition on part of the three crew members to be allowed to return home is pending in the district court which heard the matter on Wednesday. Citing lack of extradition treaty between India and Greece, the Greek embassy sought more time from the court, saying it needs the Greece foreign ministry’s permission for an extradition guarantee for the nationals. The court then listed the matter for January 6.