Tirunelveli: Nearly six months after their arrest on charges of entering Indian waters illegally, twelve Indian crew members of a US-based ship were today set free from the prison here following the grant of bail by Madras High Court.
The 12, who were among the 33 detained crew members of the anti-piracy vessel M V Seaman Guard Ohio, were released from the Palayamkottai Central Prison after bail papers were produced before the jail authorities, police said.
The other 21 foreign crew members of the ship are lodged in the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai and are expected to be released after conmpletion of bail formalities.
The crew, arrested on October 18 last year after their ship was intercepted by Indian Coast Guard off Tuticorin port, were granted conditional bail by the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on March 26.
Though the court initially ordered them to furnish a surety of Rs two lakh each, later it modified the order and asked them to deposit Rs 25 lakh for all the 33 crew put together as surety with the Tuticorin Court.
However, the court denied bail to the ship`s captain Dudinik Valentyn and its Vice-Captain Paul David Dennish Towers.
As part of the bail condition, the crew had been asked to stay in Mylapore in Chennai and sign before Q branch Police there in the morning and evening till further orders.
The crew was arrested after the Coast Guard personnel found the ship carrying arms illegally in Indian waters off Tuticorin, a charge denied by the vessel authorities.
They are facing charges under the Arms Act and Essential Commodities Act, which was invoked as the ship had allegedly bought diesel from a local agent in violation of law.
A judicial magistrate court in Tuticorin had remanded them to judicial custody following which 12 Indians were lodged at Palayamkottai Prison and the others were taken to the Chennai Puzhal prison.
US firm AdvanFort International, which owns the ship, had been maintaining that the vessel was involved in anti-piracy operations and had not strayed into Indian waters.