Captive Indian sailors: Chandy asks Centre to consider pirate swap deal



New Delhi: Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has asked the Centre 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 G K Vasan and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Chandy expressed anguish over the delay in swapping of the Somali pirates lodged in Mumbai jails for the Indian hostages -- a demand made by pirates in Somalia.

"I don't think there is no 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 here.

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 Somalia pirates being held in Mumbai jails.

Chandy, who took up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 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 Somalia 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 Centre when he was the leader of the Opposition in Kerala Assembly.

PTI