Sri Lanka confirms arrest of 28 Indian fishermen (Lead)

November 18th, 2008 - 6:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Nov 18 (IANS) At least 28 Indian fishermen and seven of their boats have been detained by the Sri Lankan Navy early Tuesday, a police officer here said.”Fishermen who had set out to sea yesterday (Monday) night in 100 boats reported that seven boats and at least 28 men have been captured by the Sri Lankan navy,” the officer said.

“Those who returned said the seven boats and their crew were being detained at Kankesanthurai in northern Sri Lanka,” the officer added.

Sri Lankan diplomatic sources confirmed the arrests of the Indian fishermen and detention of seven of their boats early Tuesday.

“The fishermen were held some 200 yards from the north western shores of Sri Lanka in an area called Naina Tivu, three nautical miles from the Delft Island which is deep inside our maritime boundary,” the diplomatic sources told IANS.

Political sources here said the Sri Lankan action seems to be a retaliatory move over the detention of 65 Sri Lankan fishermen in Andhra Pradesh. Some 15 others are being held in Tuticorin, some 250 km south of here.

However, denying allegations that Indian fishermen were being held in retaliation for Sri Lankan fishermen being detained in India, the Sri Lankan diplomats said Indians were held as they were fishing in waters where only the Sri Lankan Navy is allowed as per present regulations.

“Moreover, Pudukkottai is too far to the north - some 100 nautical miles of where the Indian fishermen were apprehended. The allegations of retaliation are imaginary. Though the Indians may soon be set free, we have no clue when our fishermen will be released,” the sources said.

“While only 28 fishermen were arrested today (Tuesday), the fact remains that Indian fishermen regularly fish in Sri Lankan waters and our navy simply ignores them most of the time,” they said.

The sources said that the held fishermen are being produced in a magistrate’s court in Kayts’ Island. “Prima facie, they seem to be genuine fishermen and should be released within three weeks if something untoward does not emerge during their questioning,” they added.

The detention of Indian fishermen is the first such incident in the past four months.

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