Dubai: A Qatari court has sentenced 28 Indian fishermen working on Saudi fishing boats to two years in jail for illegally entering the country`s waters, according to a media report.
The Indians, working on six Saudi fishing boats, were also fined 5,000 Qatari riyals (USD 1,375) for illegally entering Qatar`s waters in August, the Arab News reported.
Concerned by the court ruling, the Association of Fishermen in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia has asked sponsors of 28 Indian fishermen to come for a meeting to
discuss the issue, the report said.
"An urgent meeting is being sought to discuss the two-year prison sentences handed to them and the fines of 5,000 Qatari riyals imposed for each of the six Saudi fishing
boats that the men were in," the paper said.
The society has also called for those involved to appeal the verdict and have the fishermen and their boats freed. It has also sought the support of the owners of the
boats and the fishermen`s sponsors.
The Saudi owners of the six boats said the ruling issued by the Qatari court is not commensurate with what the fishermen did when they strayed into Qatari waters by mistake.
"The fishermen have legal papers and licenses from the Department for Fisheries and the Border Guards to fish in the sea. The detention of the fishermen since August has caused us huge financial losses and led to us missing the fishing season," a representative of the owners was quoted as saying.
He denied that the fishermen entered Qatari waters deliberately and hoped they would win the appeal as they have compiled all legal documents.
Some fishermen told the newspaper that they are sometimes forced to enter the territorial waters of neighbouring countries in order to bypass areas where entry is restricted because of security reasons and areas in the control of Saudi Aramco, which is carrying out operations in the Arabian Gulf.
There are over a thousand fishing boats in the Eastern Province. Last year, 40 fishermen were detained by the Qatari authorities but were freed after fines were paid.