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Cargo ship hijackers face first piracy trial

Mumbai, Oct. 14 (PTI): In the first piracy case tried in India, 14 Indonesians, facing charges of hijacking a Japanese cargo ship, today unfolded their defence through arguments before a sessions court even as the prosecution concluded recording of evidence after examining 24 witnesses.

Between October 22, 1999, and November 20, 1999, 41 pirates allegedly hijacked the Japanese ship, Alondra Rainbow, in the Arabian Sea between Indonesia and Milke Port (Japan).

The ship was carrying 7,000 million tonnes of aluminium ingots worth Rs 44 crore.

Indian coast guard intercepted the vessel in the Indian waters near Goa and captured the ship following a tip-off by the International Maritime Bureau.

Fifteen alleged pirates were arrested from the vessel while others are reported absconding. One of the 15 alleged pirates passed away during the trial.

The alleged pirates are being tried under the Indian Penal Code as they were caught in Indian waters. This is the first case of piracy in India, legal sources said.

The accused are Christ- ianus Aeros Mintodo, Eka Dharma, Estafanus Homiang Harson, Anton Yenes Albarto, Dandung Ari, Burhan Nanda, Erick Prathama, Dannis Supandi, Christo Matias Goha, Piether Randa Buenga, Johan Kanthone, David Wandra Putra, Richardo John and Imbrun Rosadi.

The trial is being conducted by additional principal judge R.R. Vachcha.

Prosecutors are S. Venkateshwaran and Pradeep Gharat, while the defence counsel are Santosh Deshpande and A.K. Singh.

As the accused could only understand their mother tongue, the court sought the help of an interpreter to ask them questions under Section 313 of the CrPC.

The master of the hijacked Japanese ship, Ko Jinji Ikeno, deposed as a prosecution witness on April 27 last year. Ikeno described the sequence of events after the vessel was captured on the high seas.

He informed the court that on October 11, 1999, he was informed by his company to proceed to Indonesia. Accordingly, the ship sailed for its destination.

In Indonesia, 7,000 million tonnes of aluminium ingots were loaded into the vessel and loading operations continued for three days. During this period, stevedores, chandlers and hawkers visited the ship.

On October 22, 1999, the ship left for Japan along with 16 crew members, most of them Filipinos, he said. The ship was sailing at 13 knots.

Suddenly, they heard a loud noise outside the master’s cabin and rushed there. A group of pirates confronted them and held them at gunpoint.

The ship’s crew was captured and replaced by pirates. “They (pirates) came in a vessel which was poorly maintained. It was a cargo ship and was carrying water bottles of Indonesian brand,” the master of the ship told the court.

The witness said the crew members were blindfolded and their hands tied by pirates who broke open a cabin and stole foreign currency and passports.

The ship’s crew was later set free and put on a raft, which was set adrift on the high seas. There were some provisions on the raft, which was sufficient for a few days. They were eventually rescued by a ship sailing to Thailand, Capt Ikeno told the court.

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