CHENNAI: Five fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who were sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for alleged drug trafficking but set free after President Mahinda Rajapaksa pardoned them, arrived here today.
The fishermen from Rameswaram, who were released by Sri Lankan authorities yesterday, arrived by an Air India flight at 1.05 am, airport officials said.
Tamil Nadu Ministers B Valarmathi, Dr S Sundararaj and K A Jayapal, Union Minister of State and senior BJP leader Pon Radhakrishnan, state BJP President Tamilisai Soundararajan were among those who received the fishermen.
The five -- Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet -- are likely to call on Chief Minister O Panneerselvam here tomorrow before returning to their home town.
Earlier in the day, families of the fishermen gathered in Tiruchirappalli airport anticipating their arrival there from Colombo, but returned to Rameswaram disappointed, as officials told them the five would be flying directly to Delhi.
The families had left Rameswaram early this morning and come to the airport at about 8.00 AM, as they were told the fishermen would arrive here from Colombo by a Sri Lankan flight, wife of one of the fishermen told reporters.
The fishermen were apprehended in November 2011 and sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on October 30 for alleged drug trafficking.
The court ruling had triggered protests in parts of the state and sparked sporadic violence in and around Rameswaram while political parties called for steps to set them free.
Tamil Nadu government also took up the issue with the Centre and even sent Rs 20 lakh for the appeal before the Sri Lankan Supreme Court, which was withdrawn later.
Rajapaksa commuted the death sentence after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephonic conversation with him last week on the issue.