India | Reported by J Sam Daniel Stalin, Edited by Anindita Sanyal | Updated: October 30, 2014 20:47 IST
The five fishermen were arrested in 2011
NEW DELHI: Five Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu have been given death sentence by a Sri Lankan court in a heroin smuggling case. India will appeal against the sentence in a higher court, said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs. India has been tracking the case since 2011 when the fishermen were arrested, said Mr Akbaruddin. The Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka has been assisting the fishermen with legal aid. "We feel the fishermen are not guilty. We will follow the legal process and will do our best to get them back to India," he said.
The arrest of Indian fishermen who stray into Lankan waters has long been an issue in Tamil Nadu. Some headway was made regarding their release during the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May. In June, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who had boycotted the swearing-in in protest against the invitation to Mr Rajapaksa, wrote to Mr Modi, asking him to make the issue a priority.
After the BJP was voted to power in Delhi, Sri Lankan President had ordered release of a few hundred Indian fishermen arrested for trespassing into Lankan waters during festive occasions. However, those accused of drug pedaling were not allowed to go. Down south tempers ran high at Rameswaram, the hometown of the five men. Hundreds of fishermen came to the streets, blocked road and rail traffic. A bus was set on fire and tyres were burnt on railway tracks near Pamban. Three trains bound for Chennai and Madurai were stranded, causing hardship to around 2500 passengers.
Source: http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/five-tamil-nadu-fishermen-get-death-sentence-in-sri-lanka-in-drugs-case-686715 [last accessed 06.02.2015]