THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Languishing in a Kenyan jail for about three years for no fault of his, a 27-year-old Keralite sailor is clinging on to a desperate hope to soon reunite with his family. With the final hearing scheduled for next Monday, a diplomatic push from the Government of India could significantly alter the course of developments.
P Praveen, hailing from Pathanapuram in Kollam, a trainee sailor with an Iranian merchant vessel MV Amin Darya, was taken into custody along with another Indian sailor and seven Pakistan crew by Kenyan security forces over suspicions of drug-trafficking in July 2014. Since then, Praveen’s father Prabhakaran Nair has been knocking at every possible door for his son’s rescue.
Praveen and Vikas Balwan of Haryana, along with six Pakistani crew, including the captain of the vessel, and an Iranian crew member, are currently in jail. Imprisoned at Kenya’s Shima La Tewa Prison in Mombasa, the crew has been pinning hopes for a release sooner or later. The legal proceedings, however, have been getting tangled in procedural delays of one sort or the other.
“Each time we approach the court hoping for some positive development. And every time, we come back disappointed. The hearing is still on. There’s one witness remaining, and he’s coming for the fourth time. There is always some delay or the other. Last time, the public prosecutor was unavailable,” Praveen told ‘Express.’ The Indian Embassy and the NORKA officials from Kerala have been very supportive, said Praveen. “They submitted a certificate stating that I am a student along with a police verification certificate. There has however been no progress,” he said. A final decision is expected to be taken based on the next hearing on June 26 and 27, said Vinesh N K, chairman of the Malayali Association in Kenya. “Though this hearing was scheduled for last April, it got postponed. The advocate wanted to cross-examine the witness. By the next hearing, the witness examination should be over. Only then will the judge declare whether there will be more hearings or submission.”The case is being fought between the Government of Kenya and the nine accused.
Legal proceedings are inching forward very gradually due to the gravity of the charge as well as the nature of the case. The Indian High Commission in Kenya has been doing all the necessary follow-up. A letter from the Government of India will definitely help give the final diplomatic push, says Vinesh. Manoj Joy of Sailors Society who has been supporting Praveen’s family back home pointed out the need for the maritime fraternity to take up the issue. “I hope he is released very soon. The Sailors Society has been continuously supporting Praveen’s family. From my end, I keep coordinating with his family members,” says Manoj Joy, Chaplain, Sailors Society.