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Wrongly convicted seaman Kalpesh Shinde free after 28 months in jail

Wrongly convicted seaman free after 28 months in jail
February 12, 2018

Kalpesh Shinde has an emotional reunion with his mother, Pallavi, at Mumbai airport. Pics/Atul Kamble
Athens - Kalpesh Shinde,24, reunites with family after being acquitted of charges of running weapons for ISIS, for which he spent 28 months in an Athens prison. When Kalpesh Shinde, 24, set off on his very first journey as a sailor, it was with dreams of a life of freedom on the high seas

Instead, what he got was a sea of tears, as he languished in a Greece jail for 28 months, after being falsely accused of smuggling weapons for ISIS. After more than two years of fighting for justice, the nightmare finally ended yesterday, as Shinde walked out of Mumbai airport a free man, and was reunited with his family.A teary-eyed Kalpesh strode out of the arrivals gate of the airport and walked straight into the arms of his anxious parents, Rajendra and Pallavi. Even as he clung to them, he recounted the nightmarish ordeal he suffered in Greece over the last couple of years. He told mid-day, “I would never wish such horror on anyone. Life in jail was as bad as they show in the movies; I just want to forget about all the hardcore criminals there.”

Kalpesh, a Thane resident with a diploma in mechanical engineering, had always dreamt of life at sea. After a 16-month course, he got a job as a seafarer on the cargo ship, Haddad 1. On June 7, 2015, as he embarked on his maiden journey, Kalpesh bid farewell to his family, never imagining that it would be years before he would see them again. The ship first sailed to Cyprus, and then to Libya, Egypt and Turkey, before finally returning to Libya. But before they could complete the journey, on August 29, 2015, the Greece Coast Guard raided the ship and detained the entire crew onboard. The ship was supposed to be carrying plastic furniture, but the officers found weapons in the onboard containers instead. They found 5 lakh rounds of ammunition onboard, along with 5,000 rifles. They also found 4,900 cartons of cigarettes. The Coast Guard had acted on a tip-off from an informant, who had also told them that the arms were being trafficked to the terror outfit, ISIS, in Libya. Seven people were detained, including the captain of the ship.

During their five days in police custody, Kalpesh and another Indian crewmember Jignesh Sundar Raj, 26, pleaded that they were innocent, but the authorities paid no mind.