18 Indian fishermen freed by Sri Lanka court

    The Hawk
    February23/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    Indian fishermen released by Sri Lanka after arrest for poaching. Tensions rise as fishing disputes persist in the region, prompting protests and legal actions.

    The fishermen were arrested on February 7 off the coast of the Delft islet in Jaffna

    Colombo: Eighteen Indian fishermen who were held for allegedly poaching in Sri Lankan waters earlier this month have been released, officials said on Friday.

    The fishermen were arrested on February 7 off the coast of the Delft islet in Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka.

    The magistrate in Jaffna while freeing the 18 fishermen on Thursday also ordered six months imprisonment for two drivers of the boats used for illegal fishing.

    The boats were ordered to be confiscated.

    The fishermen had pleaded guilty when they were produced in court.

    The magistrate ordered their repatriation with assistance from the Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian Deputy High Commission office in Jaffna.

    On February 20, the Northern Fisher Organisations launched a protest in front of the Indian Deputy High Commission office in Jaffna calling for intervention to stop illegal fishing by Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan waters.

    The representatives from seven fisher organisations met the Indian Deputy High Commissioner in the presence of the local police that had been providing security to the premises in the face of the protest.

    The fisher organisations handed over a communiqué with their requests.

    Earlier last month, 10 Indian fishermen were sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term by a Sri Lankan court for poaching in the island nation's waters.

    The fishermen issue is a contentious one in the ties between India and Sri Lanka, with Sri Lankan Navy personnel even firing at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats in several alleged incidents of illegally entering Sri Lankan territorial waters.

    The Palk Strait, a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both countries.

    There have been periodic instances of Indian fishermen being arrested by Sri Lankan authorities for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line and fishing in Sri Lankan waters. More than 40 Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lanka Navy this month.

    In 2023, the island nation's Navy arrested 240 Indian fishermen along with 35 trawlers for allegedly poaching in Sri Lankan waters.