The man who played a key role in Sunil James' release

Published: 20 December, 2013 08:12 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon |

K. Jeeva Sagar - the Indian High Commissioner to Ghana - played a crucial role in bringing about the breakthrough by meeting Togo President Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe and apprising him of the situation

Rakesh Madappa said that the family’s hopes of securing Sunil’s release faded after their meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as they did not hear of any developments in the case for days after that. However, K Jeeva Sagar — the Indian High Commissioner to Ghana — played a crucial role in bringing about the breakthrough.

Rakesh Madappa, brother-in-law of Sunil James, has been following up with authorities since his arrest in Togo. Pic/Nimesh Dave

On Wednesday, Sagar met Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, president of Togo, and apprised him of the circumstances in which Sunil was detained, the subsequent demise of his son, and the pending last rites for the child in India.

The president, who was already aware of the case, immediately spoke to the Togo justice minister, who in turn called theprosecutor and instructed him to review the matter at the earliest.

Significantly, this is the same prosecutor who had been delaying the release. Madappa said, “The prosecutor got the right push from the right person in Togo — the president, that is.

Meanwhile, senior officials at the Union Shipping Ministry have already directed Sanjay Anchalwar, deputy director general of shipping, and SK Sinha, principal officer MMD, Kochi, to receive the sailors on their arrival at Mumbai and Kochi respectively.  

All charges dropped
Sunil James’ family members have one reason to celebrate.They learnt last evening that Sunil was not released on parole, butobtained a full release, with all charges against him being dropped by the court, due to lack of evidence. The court even concluded that the section in which Sunil was arrested should not have been levied on him in the first place. Madappa said, “This mistake by the Togo prosecution has caused Sunil five months of his life which he will never get back. Moreover he could have seen his son Vivaan grow, which will nolonger be possible, ever.”

Journy back home
Sunil boarded an Ethopian Airlines flight from Togo via Addis Ababa (in Ethiopia) to Delhi, which will land at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi at 8.50 am today. He will then take a Jet airways connecting flight (9W306) scheduled to reach Mumbai at 2.10 pm. Vijayan will take the Air India flight (AI-477) from Delhi to Kochi, which will land at 3.55 pm.

Last week of April, 2013: Captain Sunil James left Mumbai on a four-month contract with M/s Union Maritime, a UK-based shipping company. He flew to Lagos, Africa and took charge of the vessel MT Ocean Centurion there.

July 16: Armed pirates looted the chemical tanker and injured some of its crew, off the coast of Togo.

July 17: Pirates lowered the lifeboat and disembarked from the ship. James phoned home to say that he was hospitalised after being attacked by some pirates, and had anchored the vessel at Lome, Togo.

July 20: James, along with two of his colleagues -- third engineer Andi Vijayan from Kerala and chief officer Peechuli Chandran Ashok from Chennai — were detained in Togo, on suspicion of having abetted the pirate attack.

September 4: Togo naval officials released MT Ocean Centurion, allowing its crew of about 20 Indians to return home. James, however, continued to languish in captivity, with his twocolleagues.

November 30: Vivaan, Sunil’s 11-month-old son, started throwing up and was taken to a private nursing home. Doctors diagnosed him with intussusceptions, a blockage of the intestines.

December 2: Doctors conducted a three-hour-long surgery to remove the blockage, but were shocked to discover that Vivaan had contracted septicaemia. Hours after the surgery, he succumbed to the infection. His body was kept in the Cooper Hospital morgue while his family waged a battle to effect Sunil’s release, so he could return home to conduct the last rites.

December 10: With the court proceedings in Togo going nowhere and diplomatic talks failing to yield results, Captain James’ wife Aditi and her sister Anvi, accompanied by Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam, met the Prime Minister in his Parliament House office.

December 18: Indian ambassador of Ghana, HE Jeeva Sagar met with the President of Togo to discuss the matter at length

December 18: Vivaan’s body was shifted to a private centre. His family started making plans for his last rites without the presence of Sunil, having all but lost hope of his return

December 19: Sunil was released, along with fellow prisoner Vijayan. 

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