Five fishermen languishing in Sri Lanka jail for a year

Five fishermen from Thangachimadam have completed a one-year prison term in Sri Lanka on Thursday as their family members and Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), fighting to secure their release, pinned their hopes on the Colombo High Court, which takes up the case for hearing on January 16.

The fishermen — P. Emarson (36), P. Agastas (33), R. Wilson (42), K. Prasath (32) and J. Langlet (22) — ventured into the sea on November 28, 2011. The following day they were fishing near Delft island off Palaitivu when they were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy.

On being handed over, the Neduntivu police registered a case against them under Sections 54 A and B of the Opium and Dangerous Drugs Ordinance Act, 1984, read with section 218 of the Code of Procedure. After almost 12 months of incarceration, the charge-sheet was filed on November 20 this year and the case listed for hearing in the Colombo High Court for January 16. “This is a foisted case and we are confident of their early release if there is a fair trial,” ARIF president U. Arulanandam who met the fishermen last week at Welikada prison told The Hindu .

Thanks to an assistance of Rs. 2 lakh sanctioned by the Tamil Nadu government, ARIF engaged two Sri Lankan Tamil lawyers with the help of M.A. Sumanthiran, a prominent Sri Lankan human rights lawyer to fight the case, he said. Contending that the case had been foisted against the fishermen, he said that after their arrest by the Delft island police, they should have been taken to the prison in Kayts, about 10 km away. But the fishermen were blindfolded and taken all the way to Kankesanturai, about 300 km away.

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