TN fishers urge release of arrested colleagues, claim Lankan sailor's death was accidental

In the early hours of June 25, the Sri Lankan navy’s Northern Naval Command arrested the group of 10 while they were fishing near the island nation’s Delft Island (Neduntheevu).
Mechanised boat seized by SL authorities on June 25
Mechanised boat seized by SL authorities on June 25(Photo | Express)

NAGAPATTINAM: Even as the ten Indian fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on Tuesday for alleged poaching face additional charges of causing the death of a naval sailor who was part of the team that seized their trawler, the fisher community in Tamil Nadu seek their repatriation saying that the death could have been accidental.

In the early hours of June 25, the Sri Lankan navy’s Northern Naval Command arrested the group of 10 while they were fishing near the island nation’s Delft Island (Neduntheevu). While seven of the arrested are from Nagapattinam district, one is from Cuddalore. The remaining two are from Andhra Pradesh.

Apart from the charges of fishing in Sri Lankan waters, the fishers are accused of causing the death of sailor Priyantha Rathnayake (40) when the navy apprehended them. “They face charges for illegal fishing in SL waters, death of a naval person during the operation and for causing damage to naval property,” a recent statement from the island’s navy stated. Following interrogation at Kankesanthurai police station, the arrested fishermen were produced before the judicial magistrate of Mallakam who remanded them in judicial custody till July 8.

Stressing that the arrested fishermen would not have intended to kill anyone, V Ananthan from Akkaraipettai, on whose boat they ventured into sea, said, “An accident may have occurred due to the rough sea conditions and turbulence then. We request the Union and Tamil Nadu governments to intervene for their release.”

RMP Rajendira Nattar, the president of Indian National Fishermen Union, said, “Traditionally, our fishers have not behaved aggressively with the Sri Lankan navy under such circumstances of confrontation. They used to surrender with their hands above their head. We respect SL’s sovereignty. We, however, request them to consider this (sailor’s death) an accident due to rough conditions at sea and drop charges.”

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