Arrested Vietnamese sailors freed in South Africa

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A Cape Town court has acquitted the 10 Vietnamese fishermen who were charged with mutiny and kidnapping on a Taiwanese fishing boat off South Africa early last month.

The Vietnamese embassy in South Africa said in a statement the men are free and are flying home today.

The Vietnamese sailors were arrested in South Africa early last month after police accused them of commandeering the Taiwanese fishing vessel Balena.

The police boarded the Balena at around 5.30 a.m. on May 5 (local time) and arrested the 10 Vietnamese sailors who had held its first officer and captain hostage, demanding that it enter Cape Town’s Table Bay Harbor, local media reported.

The 10 did not resist arrest and no force was used, media reports had said.

The South African police then charged the fishermen with kidnapping and piracy - which involves any act of violence or detention on the high seas.

But following the arrest, the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry and its embassy in South Africa defended the arrested sailors saying they were victims of abuse aboard the Taiwanese vessel.

The affected fishermen were working up to 20 hours per day and often subjected to beatings and ill-treatment from their officers and fellow crew, the Vietnam Embassy said.

The only motive behind their action was that they wanted to end the contract with the Taiwanese vessel owner and fly home, it added.

Vietnamese authorities had advocated for the fishermen’s rights and had persuaded the Taiwanese vessel owner to withdraw the lawsuit against the fishermen, the embassy said.

The fishermen will arrive in Hanoi on Monday, the statement said.

Reported by An Dien

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