24 Indian fishermen remanded in judicial custody in Sri Lanka

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Colombo, Feb 17 (PTI) In a move that could spark freshoutrage in India, a Sri Lankan court today remanded another 24Indian fishermen, accused of fishing "illegally" in thecountry''s waters, in judicial custody until March 1.

The fishermen, who were produced before a Magistratecourt in Jaffna, were remanded in judicial custody until March1, the sources said.

The detention of 24 fishermen took the total number ofIndian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody this week to 136.

Reacting to the incident, India today conveyed its"deep concern" over the detention of fishermen and asked theSri Lankan government to take "necessary" steps to get themreleased.

"I have just had a telephonic conversation with theMinister of External Affairs of Sri Lanka (G L Peiris) and Ihave conveyed India''s deep concern at the detention of nearly136 fishermen in Jaffna district," External Affairs Minister SM Krishna said in New Delhi.

136 Indian fishermen are currently in the custody ofSri Lankan authorities out of which 112 were caught on lastTuesday by a group of local fishermen and handed over to thepolice there. This has triggered protests in Tamil Nadu, wherethe fishermen hailed from.

All the 112 fishermen were produced before a PointPedro Magistrate court in Jaffna yesterday and remanded tojudicial custody until February 28.

Local fishermen apprehended 24 another fishermen alongwith their seven fishing boats and handed them over toIlawalai police last night, taking the total number to 136.

"I have also conveyed my deep regret that Sri Lankannationals and Sri Lankan fishermen have taken law into theirown hands and confronted our fishermen," Krishna said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said yesterday thatIndia takes a "very serious view" of the Sri Lankan Navyapprehending Indian fishermen and would be taking up thematter with the Lankan government.

Singh said the Sri Lankan government has already beentold in strong terms that such a behaviour was not acceptable.

"I have been told that 118 fishermen have been takeninto custody. We are taking up this matter with the Sri LankanGovernment. We take a very serious view," he had said.

The arrests had triggered protests in Tamil Nadu whereover 5,000 DMK workers, including party MPs Kanimozhi and T KS Elangovan, were arrested yesterday when they tried to takeout a rally to Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission protestingthe alleged abduction of over 100 Indian fishermen to SriLanka.

India had last month accused the Sri Lankan Navy ofkilling at least two Indian fishermen.

The incident had triggered a flurry of diplomaticactivity between the two south Asian neighbours followingwhich Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao visited Colombo toseek assurances to prevent such incidents in future.

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