It was an emotional reunion when sailor Vijayan Andi came out of the Cochin airport on Friday evening. He was greeted with passionate hugs and tears. His wife Sajitha and their twin children – Rohit and Roshini – were at a loss for words. However, his efforts to put up a brave face did not succeed.
Though looking tired and wishing to rush home, Vijayan met the waiting reporters and posed for photo journalists. Vijayan, the third officer of the merchant vessel MT Ocean Centurion, and the ship’s captain Sunil James were released from a Togo jail on Thursday. Vessel’s chief officer Chandran Ashok is still languishing in jail. According to Vijayan, the trio was charged with deliberately stopping the vessel at the Togo coast, making way for the Somali pirates to board the ship.
“Togo jail is a hell on earth. There, I suffered the miseries of ten lives,” he told dna.
They were arrested on July 16. “For the first 46 days we were lodged in a small room along with 80 other prisoners from various countries, mainly from African nations,’’ he said.
The prisoners were served with one loaf of bread each in the evening and morning. “Many days, we could not eat as they were snatched by fellow prisoners,” he recalled.
However, after the intervention of Accord Marine Management, the firm which supplied the crew to MT Ocean Centurion, they were shifted to a bigger building and provided with better food. “The firm footed the bill for the new facility.’’
He tried six or seven times to make a call home, but couldn’t get through. “For it, we had to bribe the policemen who stood guard with the money saved by skipping food,’’ he said.
He is not sure when Chandran Ashok, a Chennai resident, will be released.
Vijayan said that the charges against them were fabricated.
“There is no truth in it. The engine developed a mechanical snag and as a result, the vessel came to a halt.”
But he does not know the motive of the Togo authorities for fabricating the case. He thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his intervention which paved the way for their release.