Families of 18 Tamil Nadu fishermen, who have been languishing in Iran prisons for over seven months, have knocked on the doors of the Chief Minister’s Special Cell at the Secretariat here, seeking CM J Jayalalithaa’s intervention in rescuing them. The group of 48 family members of these fishermen was led by the South Asian Fishermen Fraternity (SAFF).
The anguished family members also met Fisheries Minister K A Jayapal and submitted a memorandum to be handed over to the Chief Minister. The 18 fishermen, who carried out their trade in Saudi Arabia, were arrested on December 16 and 22 last by Iran Coast Guard on charges of crossing the border. Repeated attempts made by the sponsors of these Tamil Nadu fishermen in Saudi Arabia did not succeed in getting them freed. The Iran government has not come forward to divulge information on the whereabouts of these fishermen for the past seven months.
The family members of the detained fishermen recounted their unsuccessful efforts to contact them, to reporters present at the Secretariat on Wednesday.
They alleged that the Government of India had done nothing to rescue the fishermen, adding that they had full faith in the State’s Chief Minister.
Fr Churchil, general secretary of the SAFF, told Express that Jayapal had immediately directed the fisheries secretary to contact the Indian Embassy in Iran to take further action.
The Minister also promised to extend the daily assistance of Rs 250, which is currently being given to families of fishermen detained by the Sri Lankan Navy, to the families of these 18 fishermen too.
Of the 18 men, four have been imprisoned for one year and the rest have been directed to pay a penalty of Rs 3.50 lakh each for crossing the border.
The SAFF members pleaded that since the 18 fishermen had gone there for to eke out a livelihood, the government should make arrangements for paying the penalty. The minister assured them that he would take up the issue with the Chief Minister and do the needful soon.