They are being held on charges of drug peddling

Five Indian fishermen arrested on charges of drug peddling late in November, were denied bail by a Jaffna court on Monday.

The Indian High Commission had been in touch with the Attorney General's department and all the authorities concerned.

With no instruction on the bail application being passed on from Colombo despite repeated Indian requests, the judge turned down the plea.

The judge said that if the charges were proved, the accused could be awarded capital punishment or more than 20 years in prison.

Without going into the merits of the case, which, he said, could be taken up at the time of trial, he dismissed the bail applications filed on behalf of the accused. He said that no exceptional circumstances to grant bail had been proved, said advocates representing the fishermen.

The ordeal for the five fishermen from Thankachimadam – Emerson, Agustus, Wilson, Langlet and Prasad – began when the Sri Lankan Navy arrested them near Neduntheevu islet on November 28. The Navy claimed that it had recovered a packet from the boat and the Sri Lankan police slapped drug peddling charges on the five, arrested for transgressing the Sri Lankan Maritime Boundary. Both the Indian authorities and the Tamil Nadu government are convinced that the fishermen are innocent.

The Tamil Nadu government has been remarkably supportive of the fishermen, just as the Indian Consulate in Jaffna and the High Commission in Colombo have been.

The Tamil Nadu government asked a fishermen community leader Arulanandam to liaise with the accused. He visited Sri Lanka several times in connection with the case, but has not been able to convince the authorities here.

The Indian government, which had also checked the antecedents of the fishermen, has not been able to impress upon the Government of Sri Lanka that the fishermen had crossed over only for a better catch.


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5 Sri Lankan fishermen held June 11, 2012

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