Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Protest for jailed Indian seamen

The wife of Capt Chawla and parents of Syam Chetan at the rally
The wife of Capt Chawla and parents of Syam Chetan at the rally

Relatives and hundreds of supporters of two Indian seamen jailed in South Korea over an oil spill have protested in Mumbai (Bombay) against the conviction.

This month Capt Jasprit Chawla was jailed for 18 months and chief officer Syam Chetan for eight months.

Their Hebei Spirit was rammed by a barge a year ago, releasing 11,000 tonnes of crude oil on to beaches.

Capt Chawla's wife said she was shocked when an appeal court overturned a ruling and imposed the sentences.

'No grounds'

The accident occurred after a barge owned by Samsung Heavy Industries, that was carrying a construction crane, broke free in rough seas.

Capt Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan, Sept 2008
Capt Chawla and Syam Chetan are appealing against the sentences

The crowd in south Mumbai protested against Samsung and destroyed some of its products.

Gurpreet Kaur Chawla, the captain's wife, said: "All along we were quiet because we were so sure that both of them are innocent and they would be freed.

"When the court acquitted them in June their innocence was proven. We thought it was not possible to lose this appeal as there were no grounds."

Commodore DR Syam, father of Syam Chetan, said the Indian authorities had conveyed their displeasure to the Korean authorities.

"But then the two officers should have been released on bail after the Indian authorities took up the matter," he said.

He pointed out that Capt Chawla had been praised by Lloyd's List, the maritime industry daily, for his exemplary efforts in trying to minimise the spill.

Shipping operators and seafarer unions have insisted the tanker crew were blameless. The pair are appealing to the Supreme Court.

The appeal court found they had failed to act promptly to reduce the spillage after the accident on 7 December last year.

Capt Chawla was also fined 20m won ($14,000) and the chief officer 10m won. The Hebei Spirit's owner was fined 30m won.

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