Case posted to December 11 to decide on the release of vessels

The Mannar district magistrate court on Wednesday ordered the release of 41 Rameswaram fishermen arrested in July and August, according to the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) here.

ARIF President U.Arulanandham said while ordering the release of the fishermen, the court detained their 10 trawlers and posted the case for December 11 to decide on the release of the vessels.

The fishermen were arrested in two batches on July 6 and August 4 on charges of fishing in Sri Lankan waters after crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

After release from Vavuniya jail on Wednesday, the fishermen were handed over to the Lankan Navy in Talaimannar, Mr Arulanandham said, adding they could not be repatriated immediately for want of a Sri Lankan naval ship.

They are likely to be repatriated on the weekend, he said.

Sources in the Mandapam station of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) also said there was no information from the Lankan navy about the repatriation of the fishermen.

Two days ago, the Puttalam court had set free 35 Pamban fishermen, while detaining their four trawlers.

After they were released from Negombo jail on Monday, they were taken to the Mirihana camp near Colombo, where immigration law violators were detained.

After the release of these fishermen, 69 fishermen - 19 Rameswaram fishermen, 19 Pudukottai fishermen and 31 Karaikal and Nagapattinam fishermen are still languishing in Lankan prisons. The Lankan authorities were holding back 42 trawlers of the fishermen.

Seeking the Centre’s intervention to secure the release of the boats at the earliest, P. Sesu Raja, fishermen association leader, said the boats worth several lakhs of rupees would get damaged if they were not properly maintained.

The boats would be exposed to gusty winds and damage after the onset of northeast monsoon and the Centre should prevail upon the Lankan authorities to secure release of the boats and other fishermen in jail at the earliest, he pleaded.

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