Sri Lanka to deport 10 jailed Indian fishermen

August 8th, 2008 - 12:03 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, Aug 8 (IANS) Ten Indian fishermen, who were serving prison sentences here for possessing explosive materials while fishing in Sri Lanka’s territorial waters, will be deported back to India in two groups, officials said here Friday. The first batch of five Indian fishermen, who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in 2006, were released from a Sri Lankan jail earlier this week and are expected to be deported by Monday, diplomatic sources said.

“These fishermen, who have spent nearly two years in jail, will be handed over to the Indian authorities (later) Friday. They will in turn send them back to India via Bandaranaike International Airport, Katunayake,” an official said.

Meanwhile, another group of five fishermen who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy a few months ago for allegedly possessing explosive powders were also to be released as per the orders of the Mannar district court.

According to officials, these fishermen were arrested along with 18 others.

“The others were released immediately, while these five were held as some explosive powders were found in their boats. They were ordered to pay a fine of Sri Lankan Rs.2,500 and will be released soon,” the official said.

Sri Lankan authorities usually hand over Indian fishermen to the Indian Coast Guard in mid sea, but those convicted in Sri Lankan courts have to face the deportation procedures.

The frequent arrest of Indians fishing in troubled waters between the two countries has become a sensitive diplomatic issue. The problem was discussed when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa here on the sidelines of the recently concluded South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.

At the end of the meeting, both leaders agreed to take practical steps to address what a visiting Indian diplomat described as a “humanitarian issue”.

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