As many as 23 Indian fishermen, who had entered Sri Lankan waters early this week, were freed by the Sri Lankan authorities on Friday. They set sail for Mandapam at 2 p.m. from Thalaimannar. They are expected to reach Mandapam late on Friday night.

The fishermen had ventured out in 5 boats on July 14. They were apprehended on July 15 and produced in a local court in Thalaimannar on July 16, said Arulanandam, a fisher community leader, over the phone from Rameswaram. “The process of release was delayed because of a Court strike,” he said and appealed to the Sri Lankan authorities to also release the five innocent fishermen, who were arrested in November 2011, and charged with drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, in a statement in New Delhi, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna, announced the released of the fishermen. “I am happy to inform that the 23 Indian fishermen have been released a short while back. I thank the Sri Lankan Government for this humanitarian gesture. And I have instructed the High Commissioner in Colombo to make all necessary arrangements for the fishermen to be flown back to India.”

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