Pakistan frees Greek seamen

Following intense diplomatic pressure from Greece, a Pakistani court has ended the house arrest of five Greek seamen and three Filipinos detained in the country for the past nine months after their tanker ran aground off Karachi, spilling thousands of tons of oil into the sea, Athens said on Saturday. «Pakistani authorities will now allow them to leave Pakistan,» Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis said. «We will try to complete the necessary process over over the next few days, and we hope that everything will go well… I would like to thank the Pakistani authorities.» Valinakis, accompanied by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis, left for Karachi yesterday to expedite the process. A lawyer for the detained seamen was quoted by The Associated Press as saying on Saturday that they would return to Greece today. The eight seamen from the Greek-managed Tasman Spirit, a 45,000-ton tanker built in 1979, were imprisoned after the accident. The vessel – which is owned by Malta-registered Assimina Maritime, which is also registered in Piraeus – became stranded on July 27 during monsoon rains 2km (1.2 miles) out of Karachi. It split in two several days later, spilling some 27,000 of the 67,000 tons of crude it was carrying into the sea, in what is believed to have been the country’s worse-ever disaster of the kind. The crewmen were released on bail in October, but ordered to keep to their hotel. In January, the Greek engineer tried to kill himself by slitting his wrists. In response, Pakistani police registered a case against him for attempting suicide, a criminal offense in the country. Athens built up heavy diplomatic pressure on Pakistan for the seamen’s release, enlisting the help of the European Union.

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