New Delhi: The Indian government here on Friday urged Iran for the release of nine Indian sailors detained in that country for two years.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made the request during a meeting with her visiting Iranian counterpart Javed Zarid.
“I had a good meeting with Foreign Minister of Iran HE @JZarif today. I raised the issue of nine Indian sailors detained in Iran,” Sushma Swaraj tweeted.
Sushma Swaraj said she asked Zarif to ensure that the $2.9-million fine imposed on the nine sailors was waived and they were released early.
The nine sailors were arrested in late 2013 after their ship, belonging to a Dubai-based firm, was seized by the Iranian government on charges of smuggling oil.
The Indian minister also said she met the family of Sushil Kapoor, one of the nine sailors, here “and apprised them of my meeting with the foreign minister of Iran”.
“I have advised our Ambassador designate to Iran, Mr Saurabh Kumar, to follow this up on priority and secure their release at the earliest,” Sushma Swaraj said in another tweet.
Angry relatives of the scores of people who were killed in India when they were run over by a speeding train staged protests Saturday while one of the country’s railway officials maintains the railway is not responsible for the tragic accident.
The train was traveling at high speed when it ploughed through a crowd Friday at a religious festival on the outskirts of the northern city of Amritsar, killing 59 people, Punjab state’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, told reporters Saturday. Singh said 57 others were injured and an official investigation would be carried out over the next four weeks.
The Jalandhar-Amritsar express was traveling at 90 kilometers per hour when it hit the crowd, which had gathered on the tracks to watch a fireworks display marking the Hindu festival of Dussehra.
Hundreds of relatives of the victims engaged in sporadic protests on and near the tracks Saturday, calling for action against local authorities and the train operator, who was questioned Saturday by police.
Authorities moved the protestors off the tracks and brought in reinforcements to control the crowd.
‘No lapse on our part’
The railway accident was India’s worst in years, but the junior minister who manages Indian Railways, the world’s fourth largest rail system, refused to accept responsibility.
“Railways cannot be blamed. Railways were not informed about the ceremony,” Manoj Sinha told reporters Saturday. Speaking to reporters, Sinha ruled out any punitive action against his staff, saying, “There was no lapse on our part and no action against the driver will be initiated.”
Local government officials said the festival takes place every year on the outskirts of Amritsar and that railroad authorities are alerted to run the trains at slow speeds.
Witnesses said the victims did not realize the train was coming because of the sound of the fireworks and celebrations.
Some witnesses said the train did not sound its whistle as it sped past the festival site.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the accident a “heart-wrenching tragedy” and asked officials to provide immediate assistance to the injured.