Twenty-two foreign nationals among the 35 arrested crew of detained U.S.-based private ship were on Wednesday shifted from the Central Prison at Palayamkottai to Chennai while a court remanded three others to police custody for seven days, officials said.
The 22 were sent to Chennai Puzhal Central Prison with tight security days after officials from the U.K. and Ukraine missions met the crew from their respective countries, lodged in the prison since their arrest on October 18.
Police had arrested all the 35 crew members, including 12 Indians, on board MV Seaman Guard Ohio off Tuticorin on the charge of unauthorisedly entering Indian waters and possessing arms and ammunitions without valid documents.
The remaining ten Indian crew would continue to be lodged in the Palayamkottai prison, officials said.
Prison officials said a senior official from Ukraine Embassy in Delhi met three of the crew members, including master of the ship Dudnik Valentyn, belonging to his country yesterday and discussed about the case filed against them.
They also provided counselling to engineer Sidorenko Valeriy, who suffered from depression following his arrest.
In a related development, Tuticorin Judicial Magistrate C Kathiravan today allowed a petition by the Q Branch police, investigating the case, seeking seven days custody of two Indians -- Lalit Kumar Gurung, Radhesh Dhar Dwivedi -- and UK national Paul Towers -- for further interrogation.
Though officials maintained that it was normal practice to lodge foreigners in Puzhal prison, sources in Palayamkottai jail said the shifting followed complaints by the crew about “awful conditions” prevailing in the British era jail.
“It is normally the practice to lodge foreign nationals in the Puzhal Prison in Chennai,” ADGP and IGP of Prisons J.K. Tripathy told PTI in Chennai.
He said the foreign crew would be lodged in the regular cell. “They will be in the dormitory.”