After almost a week of unsuccessful attempts, and despair, the family of Captain Sunil James, who is behind bars in a Togo jail, received a ray of hope. On Tuesday, his kin met prime minister Manmohan Singh who assured them that he will take all possible steps to secure his release.
James and two other Indian sailors are under arrest in the West African country from July, on charges of aiding pirates in looting the Marshall Islands-flagged MT Ocean Centurion. The sailor’s family has asked the Togo government to let him travel to India for the funeral of his 11-month-old son, Vivaan, who died of septicaemia on December 2. The child’s body is lying in the Cooper hospital morgue while James’ family awaits his return.
Captain James’ wife Aditi, sister Avni and her husband Rakesh Madappa accompanied by Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, met the prime minister in his Parliament House office on Tuesday.
“The prime minister has promised action. He has, in our presence, told the joint secretary in the PMO, Javed Ashraf, to coordinate with our officials in Ghana since we do not have a mission in Togo. A solution should be worked out in a day or two,” said Sanjay Nirupam.
The family is hopeful of seeing Captain James again. “Now that the prime minister has assured us that he will make the best efforts to secure his full and final release, we are positive that things will move in the right direction,” said Rakesh Madappa. “Aditi too is hopeful,” he said.
Meanwhile in Togo, a court on Monday heard the case. “We provided all the necessary documentary evidence to let him travel to India on humanitarian grounds. Our lawyer informed us that the judge heard the case and handed over the file to the prosecutor to make a decision.
However, I haven’t been able to get in touch with the people in Togo on Tuesday,” said Madappa.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the ministry of external affairs, tweeted around 9.30pm, “Hearings in case relating to indian sailors including Capt Sunil James end for the day. Likely to be taken up again tomorrow in Togo.”
On Friday, Akbaruddin said that India was making efforts to secure James’s release. “Our mission in Accra is overseeing activities in Togo, and our high commissioner in Accra is concurrently accredited to Togo. And since we came to know of this detention, our consul has met the Indian sailors who have been detained. He has also met the minister of justice of Togo, the attorney general of Togo, the minister of security of Togo, and the commander of the national gendarme of Togo. He has had access to the sailors including Captain James, and is pursuing the case with James’ lawyer,” he said.
The spokesperson said that after James’s son passed away, the high commission immediately took up the matter once again. He said that India is trying to see if it can meet the judge concerned in the case, explain the situation and request James’ release on compassionate grounds.