Sri Lanka gives death penalty to five Indian fishermen
COLOMBO: Five Indian fishermen were given the death
penalty by a Sri Lankan court on Thursday for alleged drug trafficking,
invoking a sharp reaction from India which took up the matter with Sri Lanka
and said it would appeal to a higher court against the judgement within 14
The five Indians are among a group of eight people
sentenced to death by Colombo High Court judge Preethi Padman Surasena for
alleged involvement in heroin trafficking between India and Sri Lanka in 2011.
The rest three are Sri Lankans.
However, the Indian government, which has been
pursuing their case for the last four years, maintains that it has done due
diligence and found them to be innocent.
Immediately reacting to the Sri Lankan court verdict,
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin in New Delhi said, “After
the judgement against five fishermen by lower court in Sri Lanka, India once
again takes up matter of their innocence with Sri Lanka and India's High
Commission in Colombo will appeal to higher court through a lawyer against the
While a senior MEA official spoke to the Sri Lankan
High Commissioner to India in New Delhi, the Indian High Commissioner in
Colombo was getting in touch with the Sri Lankan government regarding the case.
The spokesperson further said that India has been
pursuing the case at two levels - legal and official - and will continue doing
so. “India-Sri Lanka are in constant touch in aftermath of the judgement
against the Indian fishermen,” he added.
The five fishermen, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were
apprehended in 2011 by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of smuggling of drugs in
the seas off northern Jaffna's Delft islet.
The issue of fishermen is a very emotive matter for
both Sri Lanka and India, where Tamil Nadu-based parties including AIADMK and
DMK have been regularly pressing the Centre to take up the matter with the
Lankan authorities seriously and have often resented high-profile visits from
the island nation.
Sri Lanka has been alleging that Indian fishermen
regularly stray into its waters depriving local fishermen of their livelihood. The
two countries are separated by the narrow Palk Strait which is also a rich
Later, the MEA spokesperson in New Delhi further said
the case of the five Indian fishermen - Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K
Prasath and J Langlet, who were apprehended on November 28, 2011, by the Sri
Lankan Navy on charges of narcotics smuggling, have always maintained their
The Indian government through the High Commission of
India, Colombo and the Consulate General of India, Jaffna has been extending
all possible consular assistance to them, he said.
“Government of India
is fully committed to continue providing all assistance to the Indian
fishermen. The lawyers of the Indian fishermen will file an appeal to the next
court of appeal within the prescribed 14 days,” the spokesperson said.