Special Correspondent

RAMANATHAPURAM: As many as 21 fishermen from the State, arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for straying into their waters, have been repatriated.

It took place at an undisclosed destination near the International Maritime Boundary Line where they were handed over to Coast Guard personnel on Thursday night. A Coast Guard ship brought them to Mandapam on Friday.

While 17 fishermen belong to Jagadhapattinam in Pudukottai district, the rest are from Rameswaram. The Jagadhapattinam fishermen were arrested on November 17. Their Rameswaram colleagues were taken into custody after their vessel strayed into Sri Lankan waters in stormy weather last week.

Immediately after the fishermen reached Mandapam, intelligence and security agencies interrogated them on the circumstances leading to their detention.

A. Tamil Mani of Jagadhapattinam told The Hindu that their boat was drifted in the strong wind. He said they didn’t face any harassment. “After some legal procedures, we were sent to a Jaffna jail for a week. After that we were told that the government had decided to release them. But, they could not produce us in the court because of heavy rain. A magistrate came to the jail and ordered our release.”

M. Thirumurugan, also of Jagadhapattinam, said: “Sri Lankan authorities did a favour to us by retrieving two of our boats that sank in the sea in the recent cyclone. Otherwise, we would have returned home a week ago”.

The fishermen thanked the State and Central governments for their initiative. Later they were handed over to fisheries officials.