5 Indian fishermen released in Lanka after presidential pardon

Rajapaksa commutes death penalty given by high court

5 Indian fishermen released in Lanka after presidential pardon

Five Indian fishermen sentenced to death in Sri Lanka for alleged drug trafficking were released on Wednesday after President Mahinda Rajapaksa commuted their death penalty.

Prison officials said the five have been handed over to the immigration authorities for further action.

Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were apprehended in 2011 and were sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on October 30 for alleged drug trafficking.

The court ruling had triggered fiery protests in parts of Tamil Nadu and sporadic violence broke out in and around Rameswaram island as a large number of people staged protests.

India on November 11 had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka against a verdict of the high court awarding death sentence to them.

Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a telephonic conversation last week on the issue. Meanwhile, political parties across Tamil Nadu have welcomed the release of the fishermen, with Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) leader M Karunanidhi describing it as “very happy” news.

“Release of the fishermen makes me very happy,” Karunanidhi said, reacting to the news.  Echoing similar sentiments, BJP Tamil Nadu unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan pointed out that it was possible due to the efforts of the Prime Minister and the External Affairs Minister.

NDA allies Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) led by actor politician Vijayakant, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) chief Vaiko and Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) have also welcomed the release of the fishermen.

The fishermen issue 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 government to take up the matter with the Lankan authorities seriously and have often resented high-profile visits from the island nation

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