Jan 31, 2014, 3:41 AM
News Code: 81018828
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Sri Lanka releases 69 Indian fishermen

New Delhi, Jan 31, IRNA -- Sixty-nine Indian fishermen who were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in December last year, returned to Karaikal Thursday after their release.

All of them were arrested in December 2013 while fishing off Kodiakarai coast and later lodged in a prison in Sri Lanka.

A court in the island nation ordered their release on January 18.

The Sri Lankan Navy handed the fishermen over to Indian authorities near the International Maritime Boundary Line late last night, the PTI reported quoting officials as said.

Escorted by the Indian Coast Guard, they returned to Karaikal port this morning, where they were received by Nagapattinam District Collector T Munusamy, Karaikal Coast Guard Commander Uddhal Singh and fisheries department officials.

Meanwhile, Thirty-eight Tamil Nadu fishermen were today arrested by Sri Lankan navy for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary line, three days after fishermen representatives of India and Sri Lanka met to discuss the vexed fishing issue.

The fishermen along with their five boats have been taken by the Lankan Navy to the Kangesanthurai Port, officials said.

Officials said the fishermen were fishing using 'Irattai Madippu' fishing nets which had been banned by both countries as they destroyed the marine ecology.

In Colombo, Sri Lankan Naval spokesman Kosala Warnakualsuriya said the fishermen were arrested off the islet of Delft in the northern Jaffna peninsula.

Having spotted them inside Sri Lankan waters they had been warned to leave and the failure to do so forced the arrest, the Navy said.

The arrest came hours after External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid held extensive talks with his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris on key bilateral issues including fishermen.

The meeting, which came close on the heels of a visit by Sri Lankan Fisheries and Aquatic Resource Development Minister Rajitha Senaratne here, assessed 'positively' the recent meeting in Chennai between the fishermen associations as a first step in the right direction and agreed to consider the proposals put forward by the fishermen associations.

Sri Lankan fishing community leaders said the Indians had agreed to stop bottom trawling and needed a grace period of one month before it could be halted.