The Jaffna High Court on Thursday extended the remand of five Tamil fishermen who crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line to fish in Sri Lankan waters. The Fishermen, with support from the Indian Consulate in Jaffna and the Tamil Nadu Government have moved a bail petition.
Saying that the case required the opinion of the Attorney General, the judge posted it for further hearing on April 23.
The five Tamil Nadu fishermen were arrested in Sri Lankan waters on the night of November 28, 2011. Later, they were accused by the Sri Lankan Navy of carrying “a packet” to deliver in Sri Lanka. The packet, which the Sri Lankan Navy claims was found on the fishing vessel, was sent for laboratory examination, the report of which has been presented to the Court. The contents of the report have not yet been revealed. The fishermen have refused to “confess” they had carried anything to Sri Lanka.
The case relating to a bail application moved by the Indian Consulate here, on behalf of the accused five come up for hearing on Thursday. The fishermen, held in a local jail here, have the support of the local fishermen association in Ramewsaram, and that of the Government of Tamil Nadu. The fishermen association members, who had visited the five persons recently, have pleaded their case with every authority concerned. They are convinced that the fishermen are innocent. After making appropriate enquiries, the Tamil Nadu Government too has concurred with the fishermen association and has been helping in fighting the case.
A few months after they were held, another case of three fishermen transporting a “packet” has come to light. The three were promptly arrested and one of them has admitted to accepting a parcel from a friend in India in exchange for cash. “He was told the packet contained lungis,” said an official who was following the case.
While the two “packet” cases will be subject to closer scrutiny, the fishermen associations in Rameswaram intend to intensify agitations to secure the release of their colleagues. They have often asserted that they would not stand behind anyone who was involved in the drug trade.