Twenty-seven year old Nitin Krishna Redkar’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 did not even know where the country is. I asked my daughter to help me and she found it on the internet and showed the island country to me,” says Nitin’s father Krishna Redekar.
Redkar, a seaman working aboard cargo vessel Shear Water, was arrested on April 21 last year in the port town of Victoria, Seychelles while possessing 2.05 kilograms of Cannabis, a controlled drug.
On June 16 this year he was convicted by the Seychelles Supreme Court on charges of “possession of controlled drug for the purpose of trafficking” and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment.
Nitin, a resident of Dahisar, was employed by South Africa based shipping company HDSA Shipping (Pvt) Ltd two years back as a seaman. On April 20 last year Shear Water anchored at Seychelles and was to set sail the next day.
“After finishing his work he and two other Indian seaman thought of going ashore. And while they were leaving the ship, a local stevedore approached Nitin and asked him to deliver two packets of food for a friend of his. But these contained drugs,” says the elder Redekar.
The family claims that after being given the two packets, with substances wrapped in plastic film and aluminum foil, Nitin put them in his shoulder bag and along with seamen Nijesh Nandkumar and Abrar Khan were leaving the ship when they were searched by security guards.
All three were later detained by the Anti Drugs and Maritime Squad Unit after it was found that the packets contained Cannabis. “The stevedore who gave the packet was never found so Nitin’s claims were refuted,” says Krishna Redekar who works as an accountant at a Mumbai-based shipping firm.
And while Nandkumar and Khan were later released, for four days Nitin’s family did not know about his arrest. “It was after he was allowed to make a phone call that we learnt about his arrest. We did not know what to do. Through the internet we found the contact details of the Indian Embassy there and got in touch with the officials. They said they have visited Nitin and are aware of the case. They told us not to worry and Nitin will be out soon,” recalls Krishna Redekar.
Nitin was released on bail after fifteen days and was provided refuge at the Indian Embassy for more than year till the case was being tried.
“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 as he has not done it purposefully he will soon be set free,” says Krishna.
“And the only witnesses in the case was Nandkumar. I went to his hometown in Kerala and persuaded him to depose before the court and paid for his travel and stay in Seychelles. But it did not help,” laments Krishna who has exhausted all his savings and is seeking help from friends and relatives for filing an appeal against the verdict.
“I have been writing to the Prime Minister and the External Affairs ministry but have not got any response. The Indian Embassy too now says they can do little,” he adds.
An appeal against the verdict is to be filed by next Wednesday. “We do not know the lawyer and how she will be of help now,” says Nitin’s father.
Meanwhile, embassy officials say that they Nitin is being looked after well in the prison. He works in the kitchen there and is allowed to call home twice a week.
“He used to stay here and was just like any other normal youth. He used to help the staff by running small errands for them and every day mark his presence with the local authorities. We provided him every consular assistance possible. But now he has been convicted. All we can do is determine his well-being. Our officers meet him every 15 days at the prison,” says Indian High Commissioner in Seychelles, Ashit Kumar Nag.