x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 16 December 2017

Fishermen injured in US Navy shooting off Dubai coast appeal to go home

Men have asked to return to India for further medical treatment and to see their families while investigation into the incident continues.

Muthu Kannan, pictured here in his living quarters on August 6, has applied to UAE authorities to let him, and the other fishermen injured in the US Navy shooting incident off the Dubai to travel home to India.
Muthu Kannan, pictured here in his living quarters on August 6, has applied to UAE authorities to let him, and the other fishermen injured in the US Navy shooting incident off the Dubai to travel home to India.

DUBAI// The three Indian fishermen who were shot by the US Navy off the Dubai coast in July have appealed to UAE authorities to allow them to return home.

Muthu Kannan, 35, Pandu Sanadhan, 26, and Muthu Muniraj, 28, were injured and their friend, Arumugam Sekar, 29, was killed when USNS Rappahannock opened fire on their boat 16km off Jebel Ali.

The men, who cannot leave the country without the consent of UAE officials as police investigations are ongoing, have submitted a letter to Dubai Public Prosecution asking for permission to travel to India for further medical treatment and to be with their families.

"I want them to send me back home," said Mr Sanadhan, who sustained bullet wounds to his legs. "I want to be close to my wife and children. They keep asking when I will return. I want to be with them so they can take care of me," he said.

According to the fishermen's accounts, the US Navy oil-supply vessel started firing at their boat, which was carrying six Indian crew and two Emiratis, as it crossed its path heading towards shore.

The men said no warning shots were fired, but an American Navy spokesman said the ship's crew used lethal force after the fishing boat disregarded a series of warnings and rapidly approached the US ship.

Last month, the US government offered "humanitarian relief funds" of 500,000 rupees (Dh33,000) to the deceased man's family and Dh3,300 each for the three injured men.

Mr Sanadhan and Mr Muniraj are still in Rashid Hospital. Mr Muniraj is receiving treatment for his wounds, while Mr Sanadhan, who underwent several surgeries to remove bullets, said he was ready to be discharged.

However, hospital authorities have told them they first need authorisation from their boat's captain, who is also their sponsor. "I have been trying to reach my sponsor on his mobile but he doesn't answer," said Mr Sanadhan.

He said police officials questioned him about the incident for the first time on Monday. "They asked me if warning shots had been fired and other details," he said, adding the interrogation lasted for an hour.

"I have requested to leave because I want to see my family," said Mr Kannan, who was discharged last month. He was shot in his buttocks and leg.

"If I go home, I'll have my family to look after me. I am feeling better and can walk without help. My pain has reduced, but I still need help."

Dubai Public Prosecution confirmed it had received the men's letter.

"They are requesting to go back to India, take treatment and come back," said Sami Al Shamsi, the chief prosecutor and head of Bur Dubai Prosecutor's office. "I received the paper late [on Tuesday]. I will send it to the manager of the Attorney General's office."

He said the decision to grant them permission would be taken by the Attorney General's office.

Mr Al Shamsi also said the case was still being investigated by Dubai Police and had not yet been referred to Dubai Prosecution.

"There are many procedures to be done. The incident happened in the water."

The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi said it was following the case with the UAE and American governments.

"The US will complete their investigations shortly," said Indian ambassador MK Lokesh after a meeting with his US counterpart, Michael H Corbin, yesterday.

"They will be completing the investigations shortly and will share the details with the Indian and the UAE government."

"We have also taken up with UAE authorities to expedite this case. We are in touch with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We hope that within a week or so some clarity will emerge on when the investigations will be complete."

The US Navy did not respond to requests for comments on the ongoing investigations and Dubai Police were unavailable for comment.

pkannan@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Wafa Issa