NATIONAL

India to pursue diplomatic channels on fishermen’s release

Reacting to the verdict of the Colombo High Court sentencing five Indian fishermen to death on charges of smuggling heroin, the MEA spokesperson said India is in “touch with Sri Lankan authorities,” as Indian High Commissioner Yash Sinha spoke to Foreign Minister G.L. Peiris and took up the “matter of their innocence diplomatically with Sri Lanka.”

Sources told The Hindu that if the issue isn’t resolved by November 14, the deadline for the fishermen to appeal the decision, then, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi will certainly take up the matter directly with President Mahinda Rajapaksa” when they meet next, which is likely on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Kathmandu on November 25-27.

Since January 2014, Mr. Rajapaksa has ordered the release of more than 280 fishermen arrested for trespassing and illegal fishing.

However officials say this case is more complex, given the seriousness of the charges, as well as the sentence handed down. For the moment, sources said the government will “work through the judicial process and prove their innocence.”

Earlier in the day External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had also been in touch with Mr. Peiris and conveyed condolences on the “tragic loss of life due to mudslides” in Uva province and offered India’s assistance in relief for the hundreds of homes destroyed there.

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