5 Sri Lankan fishermen caught off Andhra coast jailed

March 18th, 2009 - 8:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, March 18 (IANS) Five Sri Lankan fishermen caught by the Indian Coast Guard off the Andhra Pradesh coast were remanded to two weeks in judicial custody here Wednesday, the police said.
According to police sources, the Sri Lankans travelling by a fishing craft Jeya Sikuru01 were intercepted by a coast guard vessel in the early hours of Tuesday near Machlipatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

Sri Lankan diplomatic sources said the detained Sinhalese, who are between 20 and 36, identified themselves as Senabadu, Priyantha, Shanta, Jayalal and Anil Priyantha.

“The fishermen informed us in the presence of police officials that they had gone out to sea March 7 and strayed towards the Andhra Pradesh coast while looking for colleagues who had sent an SOS message,” a diplomatic source said.

“After a joint debriefing in the presence of our personnel, the detainees will be questioned to verify their statement and decisions taken in due course as per Indian laws. Till then, they will be in the Puzhal Central Prison here,” the sources added.

Some 24 Sri Lankan fishermen who were set free along with their vessels Tuesday are waiting to return home as some of their crafts aren’t in good condition. There was some delay owing to the lawyers’ strike despite courts’ processing their papers earlier, a Sri Lankan diplomat said.

Tamil Nadu police’s ‘Q’ branch officials, which looks into cases of extremist violence told IANS on condition of anonymity that following the centre’s orders for extra vigil along the coastline, the number of people arrested had increased since January.

“There is, however, no cause for alarm as these are routine events. Our alertness, in the meanwhile, continues,” the official added.

According to official statistics, including those jailed Wednesday, 141 Sri Lankan fishermen are in Indian prisons including 51 in Andaman and Nicobar islands and 31 in Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh. As many as 25 fishing crafts have also been detained since January.

Of these, 25 men and five vessels have been repatriated and others are expected to be allowed to return to Sri Lanka shortly, an official from the Sri Lankan mission said.

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