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Chandy asks Delhi to consider pirate swap deal

Press Trust of India
Sunday, November 25, 2012

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NEW DELHI Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy has asked the federal government to immediately consider releasing some detained Somali pirates to facilitate the release of seven Indian sailors being held captive for last two years.

Taking up the issue with Shipping Minister GK Vasan and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Chandy expressed anguish over the delay in swapping of the Somali pirates lodged in Mumbai jails in west India for the Indian hostages, a demand made by pirates in Somalia.

“I don’t think there is any other way out to save the lives of Indians who have been held hostages since September 28, 2010. What is the use in keeping these pirates in our jails?,” Chandy said.

Pirates, who hijacked MV Asphalt Venture from Kenyan waters, had released the ship after its owners paid ransom.

Out of the 15 crew members, eight of them were also released then. But the pirates did not release seven Indians. Two of them are from Kerala. They said that the Indian hostages could be swapped for Somali pirates being held in Mumbai jails.

Chandy, who took up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then home minister P Chidambaram, said that the top leadership of the government is ready for the swapping deal. But, the Maharashtra government insists that a trial should be conducted before taking a decision, he said.

Chandy said he has asked Khurshid to take all possible steps for the faster disposal of court cases against Somali pirates in Maharashtra courts so that the release of the Indian hostages could be expedited. The chief minister said that he will also write to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on the issue.

“An immediate action is needed to end the agony of the families of hostages. It is a humanitarian issue,” said Chandy, who had been taking up the matter with the federal government when he was the leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly.



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