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Iran says it’s considering release of 16 Indian sailors on seized ship on humanitarian grounds

It may be recalled that External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had spoken to his Iranian counterpart seeking their release.

Cargo ship 1NEW DELHI: Nearly a fortnight after Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized a ship with 17 Indian sailors on board (out of which the lone Indian woman sailor returned to Kochi), there is hope of the remaining 16 Indian sailors being released and sent back home.

Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahain, during a phone call that he made to his Portuguese counterpart, said they were considering release of the sailors on humanitarian grounds.

The ship that was seized had a Portuguese flag and was reportedly owned by an Israeli.

“We are seriously considering the release of the sailors on the ship as a humanitarian exercise. We have asked the respective ambassadors in Tehran for their consular services, release and extradition to their countries,” the Iranian Foreign Minister said on Saturday.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had called and spoken to his Iranian counterpart requesting for the sailors’ release. The Indian embassy in Tehran has been continuously following up the issue.

Iranian officials earlier stated that the Indian sailors were not imprisoned but were on the ship due to bad weather (initially) and that they were free.

The Indian government has refrained from commenting on this statement yet, but there is optimism that the remaining sailors will return soon.

On April 19, Ann Tessa Joseph, a woman deck cadet returned to Kochi . She was among the 17 Indian sailors on board MSC Aries that was seized by Iran.

“Joseph from Thrissur, Kerala, landed in Cochin airport on Thursday afternoon. This was a result of the concerted efforts of the Indian mission in Tehran and the Iranian government,’’ the MEA said.

Joseph said her release was unexpected. “On Wednesday evening, I was told to pack up and get ready to move out of the ship, which was anchored. It was totally unexpected. I was released because I was the only woman among the 25-member crew. From the ship, they took me to the shore by a pilot boat. I was told not to reveal the rest of the route of the journey to Kerala,’’ she said.

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