India to appeal higher court in Lanka to seek return of five fishermen

New Delhi, Oct. 30 (ANI): India on Thursday stated that it will contest a Sri Lankan court's decision pronouncing the death sentence on five fishermen from Tamil Nadu by appealing against the sentence in a higher court in that country.

"This is a court case which has been delivered by a lower court against fishermen who were apprehended in 2011. Since then, the case has been going on through the Sri Lankan judicial process. Now that the lower court has given its judgement we intend, through our High Commission, to appeal against this judgement at a higher court," said Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin to ANI here.

He also announced India's intention to take up this matter with the Sri Lankan government to seek the return of its five fishermen back home.

"We have been pursuing with the Sri Lankan government our view that we feel that these fisherman are not guilty because we have done our due diligence on our side and we find that they are innocent," he said.

"But that is a separate process which we are pursuing. We will also pursue (the case) through the legal process and ensure and try our best to ensure that these fishermen are proved innocent and can return to India," he added.

"Our view, based on our assessment in this side, is that these are innocent fishermen; however, there is a legal process on and we intend to contest this legally, that's what we intend to do through the Sri Lankan judicial process and we hope for a favourable outcome in that process too," he further said.

The five fishermen were reportedly arrested in a drugs smuggling case.

The arrest of Indian fishermen straying into Lankan waters has long been a contentious issue with Tamil parties raising this on a regular basis. Some headway was made this year following the release of some from the island nation on the eve of the swearing-in ceremony of the new BJP-led NDA government assuming charge in Delhi. (ANI)