Resolute efforts are being taken to ensure early and safe release of 16 fishermen of Tharuvaikulam, Tuticorin district from the Sri Lankan custody.

The fishermen allegedly crossed the International Maritime Boundary Line by three mechanised boats and were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy on Sunday.

Highly placed sources told The Hindu that the issue had been taken up with the High Commission of India in Colombo. All of them were in safe custody at Kalpitiya in Sri Lanka. They were expected to be freed in two or three days after completing formal procedures.

Tuticorin MP S. R. Jeyadurai said a letter was sent to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid for their intervention to ensure their repatriation at the earliest. He said he had convinced their families at Tharuvaikulam that the fishermen would return home safely.

Collector Ashish Kumar said high-level officials were stepping up efforts to avoid judicial procedures concerning the case for the early release. Tharuvaikulam panchayat president S. Maharajan said the fishermen left Tharuvaikulam coast on February 27. Citing unconfirmed sources, Commandant S.E.D. Anand Kumar, Indian Coast Guard, Tuticorin Station, said the fishermen were apprehended 28 nautical miles off the East Sri Lanka coast.

Coast Guard personnel were on alert to get the latest updates on the issue and to extend support to coordinating agencies for their early release.

Those apprehended were S. Manikam (24), G. Rajan (27), P. Ruban (23), S. Selvaraj (35), S Albert (27), R. Sahayamani (25), A. Kumar (21), S. Kennedy (50), C Robin (26) and G. Manely (23) of Tharuvaikulam, Tuticorin district, and S. Abbas (58), J. Abbas (59) and K. Nizam (45) of Threspuram and Rabik (42) of Naripaiyur, Ramanathapuram district, and K. Thommai Antony (50) and Murugan (35) of Vembar.

Body retrieved

The body of a fisherman, S. Antony Rajamichael (48), was retrieved at Tharuvaikulam on Monday. After 16 fishermen were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy, other fishermen were asked to return to Tharuvaikulam to condemn the detention, S. Maharajan, President of Tharuvaikulam panchayat, said. Mr. Rajamichael, one of the returnees, drowned in the sea.

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