Nitin Redekar’s family was preparing to start the day like any other middle-class household when they received a call from Seychelles telling them their son had been arrested for possessing drugs.
“I didn’t even know where the country was. I asked my daughter to help me and she found me a map on the Internet and showed me the island country,” said Nitin’s father Krishna (52).
The 27-year-old was supposed to get married this year.
A seaman working aboard cargo vessel Shear Water, Nitin was arrested on April 21 last year in the port town of Victoria in the Seychelles, while allegedly in the possession of 2.05 kg of cannabis, a controlled drug.
On June 16 this year, he was convicted by the Seychelles Supreme Court of “possession of controlled drug for the purpose of trafficking” and sentenced to 13 years in prison.
Nitin, a resident of Dahisar, was employed by South Africa-based HDSA Shipping two years ago.
On April 20, 2007, Shear Water anchored at Seychelles for a day.
“After finishing his work, he and two other Indian seaman decided to go ashore. As they were leaving the ship, a local stevedore working as a daily wage earner on the vessel approached Nitin and asked him to deliver two packets of food to a friend of his. Those packets contained drugs,” said Krishna.
Minutes after Nitin had put the two aluminum foil-wrapped packets in his backpack, he and fellow seamen Nijesh Nandkumar and Abrar Khan were searched by security guards.
When the packets were opened and the cannabis revealed, Nitin tried to argue that they were not his. But the stevedore he allegedly got them from had vanished. He has still not been found.
All three were detained by the Anti-Drugs and Maritime Squad Unit. Nandkumar and Khan were later released.
For the next four days, Nitin was not allowed to call his family, and no one else told them their son was in a foreign jail. “It was only when he was finally allowed to make a phone call that we learnt about his arrest,” said Krishna, an accountant with a Mumbai-based shipping firm. “We were shocked. We didn’t know where to begin trying to get him home.”
The Redekars contacted the Indian embassy in the Seychelles, who said they have visited Nitin and were aware of the case. “They told us not to worry, that Nitin would be out soon,” said Krishna.
Fifteen days later, Nitin was released on bail and was provided refuge at the Indian embassy. He stayed there for more than a year, while the case was being heard.
“We went by what the shipping company’s agent told us. He arranged for a lawyer there and the embassy officials kept telling us not to worry,’ said Krishna. “They said it was clear he was innocent. He would soon be set free.”
The only witness in the case was Nandkumar. Krishna went to his hometown in Kerala and persuaded him to depose before the court. “I paid for his travel and accommodation in Seychelles. But even his testimony didn’t help my son.”
Having exhausted all his savings on Nandkumar’s trip and the lawyer’s fees, Krishna is now forced to ask friends and relatives for money so he can file an appeal against the verdict.
“I have been writing to the prime minister and External Affairs Ministry but have got no response. The Indian embassy says they can now do little,” he said.
The appeal will be filed by next Wednesday. “We do not know the lawyer. We don’t know if it will help now,” said Krishna.
Meanwhile, embassy officials say Nitin is being looked after well in prison. He works in the kitchen and is allowed to call home twice a week.
“He used to stay here and help the staff, running small errands for them. We provided all consular assistance possible. Now, all we can do is determine his well-being,” said Ashit Kumar Nag, Indian High Commissioner in the Seychelles.