July 13, Colombo: A Sri Lankan court has released 16 Indian fishermen who were in detention after they were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for illegally crossing International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL and poaching in Sri Lankan waters.
The Jaffna Magistrate Court has ordered the release of the 16 fishermen but under certain conditions, India Today reported.
Jaffna Magistrate Anthony Pillai Judeson initially sentenced the fishermen for two years in jail for crossing the IMBL and attempting to fish in the region.
But the fishermen's counsel Joy Mahil Mahadeva pleaded to the court requesting the release of 16 fishermen and also consider this as the first warning.
The judge, taking this into account, ordered the release of the Indian fishermen but made it clear that if any one of the fishermen gets arrested again, they shall be imprisoned and be punished accordingly.
The Indian fishermen feared that Sri Lanka's new fishing law went into effect in February this year would be slapped against them.
Under this act, foreign fishing craft illegally fishing in Sri Lankan waters can be fined Rs. 1.5 million up to Rs. 175 million maximum depending on the length of the vessel . The jail term for poaching fishermen is also extended to one year.
The judge also ordered the owners of the three trawlers captured along with the fishermen to be present in Jaffna Court on August 28.
Under the new law, when legal action are being taken on the seized vessel the owner of the vessel should be present at the court. In case of absence, the trawlers will be taken into the Sri Lankan custody permanently.