Pune: A 26-year-old Marathi boy from Nipani, Belgaum district in Karnataka, is among the five Indian sailors working for a Greek merchant shipping company, who have been detained in Greece for the last 6 months. The sailors have been pleading innocence with the Greek government but the government has apparently narrated the incident as a detention due to security threat to the Greek media.
Satish Vishwanath Patil (26), completed his training for joining the merchant navy only a few months back when in December, he was recruited by Andromeda Shipping company, a Greek shipping firm and was sent on his first seafaring mission to Turkey. Their ship was to carry explosive material and equipment for making arms on the contract of the Turkish government to Djibouti in Africa.
While their ship was about to reach Egypt, their first halt, the ship needed repairs. The owner firm asked them to reach Greek shores and the ship’s captain turned the ship towards Greece, where the ship was repaired. As it was about to set sail, the weather became rough and so the ship stayed near the Greek coast for safety. The ship was intercepted by the Greek coast guard.
“They came aboard the ship and asked for documents. They said they need to inspect the ship, but they found nothing illegal and even the documents were in order,” Satish said over a Whatsapp phone call to activists from Sangli who he got in touch with.
He added, “They suddenly detained us and put us in prison. They said they found two suspicious crates in our shipment and since January, we are in their custody.”
Patil said the 5 Indians are lying haplessly in the Greek prison. “They have arrested the owner of the firm as well as the captain. What did we do in all of this? They have the owners and their papers. We were just recruits and did nothing wrong,” Patil said, adding, “The system here is very slow. Just some time back, two other Indians were freed after being here for 30 months. We don’t want that fate and have paid a lawyer 12,000 euros amongst us to fight for us.”
Patil, is among 5 other Indian crew members. Two are from Punjab, one from Karnataka and one from Delhi. Satish got in touch with his family and activists from Sangli through Facebook which he accessed from the mobile phone of another inmate. Over the last 6 months, his family tried getting in touch with the government through Kolhapur MP Dhananjay Mahadik.
The family of Jaideep Thakur (30), who is from Gurdaspur in Punjab, have met VP Singh, former army chief and minister of state for external affairs and have written to Sushma Swaraj as well as Prime Minister Modi. “We have tried to get the government put pressure on the Greek government. The courts there have held only one hearing and the next which was to be on July 12 will apparently get postponed due to a two-week holiday,” said Pradeep Thakur, Jaideep’s brother, adding, “The Indian government is not taking it as seriously as we had expected.”
Patil’s parents are farmers and are yet to be told about their son’s condition. “We did not want to put them through a trauma, so we just informed his sisters. We have been trying through the family of Jaideep as they have access to the government,” said Vishal Patil, Satish’s cousin, adding, “It was his maiden voyage and he was happy about it. His parents think he is on duty as he lies in some jail for no fault of his own.”