Chennai: The five Indian fishermen, who were sentenced to death on charges of drug trafficking and released by the Sri Lankan court yesterday, reached home on Thursday. They thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for securing their release.
The Sri Lankan authorities decided to release the five fishermen from Tamil Nadu - Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet – after Prime Minister Narendra Modi intervened in the matter and spoke to President Mahinda Rajapaksa of the island nation.
"PM Modi spoke to President Rajapaksa and the latter decided to pardon the five Indian fishermen facing death sentence. It if for the Lankan President to say whether it's a fallout of conversation with PM Modi or not. We don't call it a pardon for Indian fishermen, we call it reduction of sentence," Sri Lankan Minister Senthil Thondaman was quoted as saying shortly ahead of their release.
All five men were apprehended in 2011 and held guilty of drug trafficking.
A few days back, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa had assured India that he was ready to pardon the five Indian fishermen, a statement issued by Minister Prabha Ganesan confirmed the Indian High Commission officials in Colombo.
Calling it an achievement of the Central government, BJP leader GVL Narasimha said that the announcement is heart warming and was only possible due to the efforts made by the Centre. Besides him, another BJP leader Nalin Kohli said that India's voice is being taken seriously ever since Modi became PM.
Meanwhile, DMK leader TKS Elangovan said that the party has already appreciated the efforts made by the Prime Minister in the release of the fishermen.
"I'm very happy that these fishermen have been released," said DMK chief M Karunanidhi.
Earlier, the Deputy Minister of Telecommunication and Information Technology was quoted as saying that President Rajapaksa was pushing for the withdrawal of the Indian appeal as that would drag the case for up to six months, delaying presidential pardon.
The Colombo High Court had on October 30 sentenced the five fishermen to death on charges of smuggling 995 grams of heroin. They were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for heroin trafficking in 2011.
The appeal filed against the Colombo High Court judgment was dismissed by a two-judge Appellate Court Bench comprising of Justices Vijith K. Malalgoda and AHMD. Nawaz, after the counsel appearing for the five fishermen said they have decided to withdraw it.
Sri Lanka, according to the Colombo Page web site, was exploring ways to free the Indian fishermen.