An Apache Junction man jailed in India for the last three weeks on charges of violating that country's firearms restrictions was scheduled to be released Thursday after posting $500 bail and now is awaiting a trial that could ultimately get him convicted and sent to prison.
Larry Sellmeyer, 56, left May 25 on a plane from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport bound for Chennai, India, to have corrective hip surgery. He checked an unloaded handgun in a locked box with his luggage, according to family members.
However, when he left the Chennai Airport to return to the U.S. on June 11, he was detained, arrested and jailed for having the gun, a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson semi-automatic, along with 35 bullets and three magazines in his luggage, Sellmeyer's daughter, Melinda Cortes, told the Tribune.
"It was unloaded. Larry's not the type who would harm anyone. The gun stayed in the locked box the whole time it was in India," Cortes said. "The bullets and magazine were in the locked box with the gun but kept separate."
A report from the The Times of India, however, said Sellmeyer was detained after he was carrying a loaded weapon. The report called the weapon a "revolver."
India does not allow guns to be brought into the country without permission from its government. Travel information with the U.S. Department of State says government permission is required to bring in various restricted items, such as firearms, gold, electronics and ivory. Those who do not comply risk arrest, a fine and confiscation of the item.
Cortes said her father, who flew to India on a Continental Airlines flight, took the gun with him because he feared for his safety due to the recent terrorist attacks in India targeting Americans.
The family said no one from the airport or the jail in Chennai called Sellmeyer's wife, Tuyet, to tell her that he had been detained that day. Sellmeyer was detained and jailed in the Puzhal Central Prison in Chennai so authorities could perform a ballistics test on the gun to determine whether he had fired it during the time he was in the country. Authorities said he violated the Indian Arms Act, Cortes said.
"He didn't have any problems with the gun until he tried to leave the country," Cortes said.
The family sought the help of U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). In a letter from the senator's office, dated Tuesday, the office said it has contacted the proper authorities at the United States Consulate in Chennai and will help any way it can.
Cortes said her father initially had hip surgery in India in 2007 because it could be done for about a third of the price as a surgery in the United States.
When his hip came out of place, he returned to India to again have the surgery performed at no cost, she said.