5 Tamil fishermen on death row in Sri Lanka to be transferred to India

CHENNAI: Sri Lanka will transfer all the five fishermen, who had been sentenced to death on the charge of drug trafficking, to India, a CNN IBN report said quoting BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

This will come as a huge relief to the fishermen and their families. Television reports said that the deadlock was broken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on the issue, according to a tweet from Dr Swamy.

The fishermen will be transferred to an Indian jail, reports said.

"Namo and Rajapaksa spoke on the phone yesterday & agreed to process papers & transfer 5 fishermen convicted to Indian jail. I am vindicated!" the tweet read.

The case dates back to 2011 when the five fishermen set out to fish from Rameswaram and were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on the charge of possessing narcotics.

A Sri Lankan court had recently sentenced the five fishermen to death in the case.

The Indian fishermen were arrested by the Sri Lankan navy in 2011. The fishermen have time till November 11 to appeal at the Lankan Supreme Court.

India's Ministry of External Affairs had said that the Indian government will challenge the order in the upper court.

Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin was quoted by CNN IBN as saying, "We will take up this matter. Judgment is passed by the lower court. We will challenge this case in the upper court."

Earlier, the executive director of Sri Lanka's Institute of Policy Studies, Dr. Saman Kelegama, had called for a bilateral settlement between New Delhi and Colombo on the issue of the death penalty given to five Indian fishermen in a drug smuggling case.

"This is a thing that is concerned with both the countries. So, we have to bilaterally settle this issue of fishermen crossing maritime border and fishing in each others' territory," said Dr. Kelegama.

"Neighbours always have problems, be it in South Asia, Latin America or wherever. So, this is a typical problem between two neighbours," he added.

Dr. Kelegama said the fishermen row has created a conflict between India and Sri Lanka.

The Colombo High Court had earlier on October 30 held five Indian fishermen, who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in 2011 on charges of smuggling drugs, guilty of drug trafficking.

The arrest of the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy has been a major topic of debate between the two nations.

Former Tamil Nadu chief minister and AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa had earlier written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to pressurize the Sri Lankan authorities to free the fishermen detained in that country.

Jayalalithaa had in her letter to the Prime Minister insisted on laying down a time-bound action plan in a bid to achieve a long-term permanent solution to the problem, reports said.

Meanwhile, BJP's Tamil Nadu chief Tamilisai Soundararajan said that the Indian High Commissioner was in touch with the fishermen.

"The government is taking legal steps to release the fishermen. And also on humanitarian grounds, our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has met them personally and has assured them they can talk with their relatives, given some clothing to them when they requested that they have to meet relatives and was assured that arrangements will be made," said Soundararajan. (ANI and agencies)