In a significant development, the Mannar district court in Sri Lanka has ordered the release of 20 Rameswaram fishermen along with their four vessels.

The district court after extending the remand of the fishermen to October 21 when they were produced before the court on Monday morning, ordered their release with the boats.

The release followed a government order, according to U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) here.

The fishermen were arrested on September 22 by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of illegal fishing after crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The fishermen are likely to be repatriated on Tuesday afternoon, sources in the Mandapam Station of Indian Coast Guard (ICG) here said. ICG vessel Rani Avantibai from Visakhapattnam is ready to receive the fishermen at the IMBL and “we are awaiting fax message from the Lankan Navy,” the sources said.

This was the first time in recent days a Lankan court has ordered the release of the fishermen along with their seized trawlers. The same Mannar district court, while ordering the release of 41 Rameswaram fish on September 25, detained their 10 trawlers and posted the case for December 11 to decide on the release of the vessels.

The release of the fishermen along with their boats assumed significance as it coincided with the visit of External Affairs Minister Salman Kurshid to Colombo on Monday and comes a day after a fishermen team called on Finance Minister P. Chidambaram at his residence at Managiri in Sivaganga district.

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