x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

US Navy shooting survivors stranded penniless in Dubai

Six months after the shooting of a fishing boat by the US navy that killed their compatriat the five survivors remain in limbo Dubai, unable to leave until the investigation is complete.

Fishermen Pandu Sanadhan (left), 26, and Muthu Muniraj, 28, at their accommodation inside the Dubai Offshore sailing Club. They were shot at by the US navy. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper
Fishermen Pandu Sanadhan (left), 26, and Muthu Muniraj, 28, at their accommodation inside the Dubai Offshore sailing Club. They were shot at by the US navy. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper

DUBAI // The five survivors of a fatal attack on their fishing boat by a US navy ship are stranded penniless in Dubai more than six months after the incident.

The Indian fishermen's passports have been confiscated and police have told them they must stay in the country until an investigation is complete.

But no one will tell them who is conducting the investigation or when it will end, and no one has questioned them about the shooting since initial police inquiries six months ago.

The police, public prosecutors, federal prosecutors and the US navy all decline to comment on the case. The five men wrote to Dubai Public Prosecution last September asking for permission to travel to India for medical treatment and to be with their families. There was no reply.

Meanwhile they have no income and rely on occasional handouts from Indian consular officials to survive, while their families at home in India are struggling.

"Nothing has happened so far," said Murugan, one of the fishermen. "We've been told there might be some meetings this month between authorities and our case will be discussed.

"We were given Dh1,000 by the embassy two months ago for our expenses, but things are getting difficult at home. There is no money to eat or to make the children study. My family is facing a lot of difficulty."

Muthu Muniraj, 28, Muthu Kannan, 35, and Pandu Sanadhan, 26, suffered bullet wounds when the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on their boat with a heavy machine gun about 16 kilometres off Jebel Ali on July 16 last year.

Their colleague Arumugam Sekar, 29, was killed instantly. Two others, Kumaresan and Murugan, escaped without injury.

"Staying here is difficult," said Mr Kannan. "No one is telling us anything. They can let us to go home for a while and be with our families. We don't mind coming back to the UAE to finish the case. But just let us go home."

Sanjay Verma, the Indian consul general, said: "We are also awaiting the early closure of investigations. The men want to go back home and sustaining them all these days is getting a little difficult."

The fishermen dispute the US navy's account of the incident. They say no warning was given before the Rappahannock raked their boat with machine gun fire.

The navy says the ship's security team used lethal force only after the fishing boat disregarded warnings by voice, radio and lights.

However, the navy has paid Mr Sekar's family 500,000 rupees (Dh33,000) compensation, and Dh3,300 to each of the three injured men's families.

 

pkannan@thenational.ae