NEWS
01/12/2017 13:02 EST | Updated 01/13/2018 00:12 EST

Refugee seeker turned reluctant captain of Tamil migrant ship not guilty: lawyer

VANCOUVER — The captain of a vessel that arrived on British Columbia's shore carrying hundreds of Tamil migrants should not be found guilty because his lawyer says he was helping fellow asylum seekers and acting on humanitarian grounds.

In closing arguments at a B.C. Supreme Court jury trial, Sandy Ross says his client had no intention of piloting the MV Sun Sea when he paid for the trip, but was forced to take the job after the Thai crew abandoned the vessel.

His client Lesly Emmanuel and three other Sri Lankans are accused under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.

The MV Sun Sea left Thailand on July 5, 2010, carrying 492 Sri Lankan Tamils and a makeshift crew, on what Ross says was a poorly equipped vessel that wasn't designed for a trans-Pacific voyage.

The Sun Sea was the second ship of Sri Lankan refugee seekers to reach B.C.'s shores in 2010, after the MV Ocean Lady arrived with 76 passengers.

The trial heard that those on both ships paid thousands for a spot aboard the vessels and had intended to claim refugee status upon arrival.