The 35 seafarers and armed guards onboard the maritime security vessel Seaman Guard Ohio were detained off the Indian coast in 2013 and were jailed for five years in 2016, despite charges having been dropped in 2014 by the Madras High Court. However, the men were not allowed to leave India pending an appeal.
Following a long drawn out legal battle the crew reported to have been acquitted by an Indian court on Monday.
“Today is a day that we have long campaigned for. Maritime security professionals provide an important service in protecting seafarers from piracy," said Ben Bailey, Director of Advocacy for The Mission for Seafarers, which provided support for the crew from 36 hours after their initial arrest.
“The case of the Seaman Guard Ohio highlights once again the issue that millions of merchant seafarers often face when carrying out their everyday jobs. The criminalisation of seafarers remains a constant threat to those who are responsible for transporting over 90% of world trade," he stated.
“We welcome the acquittal and release of the 35 man crew of the Seamans Guard Ohio in Chennai,” the Sailor’s Society said on Twitter.
The acquitted crew include six former UK soldiers dubbed the Chennai Six who had been at the centre of a campaign to win their freedom.
The Chennai6 Facebook page said: "We now wait to hear as and when the men will be allowed home to their families. This may take some time due to paperwork but the men's release from prison is imminent. But the families are understandable delighted that finally common sense and justice has prevailed."