11:14 am - Thursday November 5, 2015

PM Narendra Modi Speaks to Sri Lankan President Over Death Penalty to Indian Fishermen

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Sunday over the death sentence handed out to five Indian fishermen which has sparked protests in their home state of Tamil Nadu.

The five – Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet – were sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court on October 30 on charges of drug trafficking.

“The talks were centred around the five Indian fishermen’s issue but as of now I don’t know any other details,” Lankan Presidential Spokesperson Mohan Samaranayake told NDTV.

Political parties in the state including MDMK – an ally of the ruling NDA at the Centre – have accused the Centre of doing little. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam had raised apprehensions over whether the fishermen had received a fair trial.Alleging that the case against the fishermen was “fabricated”, MDMK chief Vaiko had said that the PM should intervene strongly through diplomatic channels to secure the release of the convicted Indians.

The arrest of fishermen has long been an issue in Tamil Nadu. The sentence comes at a time when the state is demanding the return of Katchatheevu, an island India had gifted to Sri Lanka in the early 70s. Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has filed a petition in the Supreme Court in this regard.

Some headway was made on the arrests during the visit of President Rajapaksa in May for the swearing-in of PM Modi. A month later, Ms Jayalalithaa, who had boycotted the swearing-in to protest the invitation to Mr Rajapaksa, wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to make the issue a priority.

Mr Rajapaksa ordered the release of a few hundred fishermen arrested for trespass. But those accused of drug peddling were not allowed to go.

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