Mogadishu: Fourteen Indian sailors convicted of illegally exporting charcoal from areas controlled by Somalia`s Shebab rebels have been freed after paying fines, an official said.
The sailors were sentenced by a Mogadishu court on Saturday to one year in prison or a fine of USD 10,000 (7,500 euros) for illegally exporting charcoal from Somalia. They were released yesterday.
"The Indian crew members regained their freedom (Sunday) afternoon after paying money to avoid serving the prison term.
They can go home now," said General Abdulahi Moalim Ali of Somalia`s prison service.
The crew was arrested last week by the Western-backed Somali government`s coastguards while transporting the charcoal from the country`s southern port of Kismayo.
Charcoal is a key source of revenue for the Al-Qaeda-inspired Shebab militia controlling much of Somalia`s southern and central regions.
Most of the charcoal smugglers use Indian dhows to take their cargo to Gulf states, notably the United Arab Emirates where the import of charcoal is not banned.