Sri Lanka frees Indian fishermen sentenced to death

Colombo/Chennai: Five Indian fishermen sentenced to death for drug trafficking were released in Sri Lanka Wednesday, and the Indian high commission said the gesture will further boost bilateral ties.

The Indian mission in Colombo said the fishermen would be sent home and won't have to serve their sentence in India.

"We are deeply grateful to (Sri Lankan President) Mahinda Rajapaksa for this humanitarian gesture which will further strengthen the strong and multi-faceted relations between India and Sri Lanka," the mission said.

The five fishermen from Tamil Nadu and three from Sri Lanka were held guilty of drug trafficking and sentenced to death.

Indians Emerson, P. Augustus, R. Wilson, K. Prasath and J. Langlet were caught in the sea in 2011 and sentenced to death by the Colombo High Court Oct 30 this year.

The death sentence triggered massive protests in Tamil Nadu.

President Rajapaksa released the fishermen by using his constitutional powers, the Daily Mirror said.

"Yes, they have been released and handed over to the high commission," an Indian high commission spokesperson told the daily.

"They will be sent to India and will not serve their sentence there. We are currently working on the modalities."

In Chennai, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the release came about due to the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

BJP's Tamil Nadu leader Tamilisai Soundararajan also said that there would soon be a permanent solution to the problem of attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy on Indian fishermen in the sea.

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