Five Indian fishermen sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for alleged drug trafficking were released after President Mahinda Rajapaksa pardoned them. Prison officials said the five had been handed over to the immigration authorities. “We are pleased to confirm that five Indian fishermen, who were sentenced to death by the Honourable Colombo High Court on October 30, 2014, were today released from prison for being sent back to India,” an Indian high commission statement said. “We are deeply grateful to His Excellency Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa, President of Sri Lanka, for this humanitarian gesture, which will further strengthen the strong and multi-faceted relations between India and Sri Lanka,” it said.
“President Mahinda Rajapaksa issued a presidential pardon for them,” presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake said. “We would like to thank President Mahinda Rajapaksa for remitting the sentence... of five Indian fishermen and releasing them from jail,” Indian high commissioner Y K Sinha said. The death sentences were commuted after India withdrew an appeal in Sri Lanka’s SC.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu welcomed the development. DMK chief M Karunanidhi said he was very happy.“Their release gives me immense joy,” he told reporters.
Indian high commissioner Y K Sinha met the five fishermen after their release to ascertain their well-being. He said the high commission was arranging for their return. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s move to pardon the five comes less than a week before the Saarc summit in Nepal, which will be attended by him and Prime Minister Modi.
P Augustus, R Wilson, Emerson, K Prasath and J Langlet, all hailing from Thangachimadam near Rameswaram, were apprehended in 2011 and were sentenced to death on October 30 for alleged drug trafficking.
Rajapaksa and Modi had a telephonic conversation last week on the issue.