Following intervention from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday pardoned five Indian fishermen who were condemned to death for smuggling drugs into the island nation.
Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath and J Langlet, all hailing from Tamil Nadu, were arrested in 2011 and were sentenced to death by the Colombo high court on October 30 on charges of drug trafficking.
“They were given a presidential pardon,” presidential spokesman Mohan Samaranayake told AFP.
The move follows hectic diplomatic pressure to free the men.
A statement by the high commission of India in Colombo said it was “deeply grateful” to Rajapaksa for the “humanitarian gesture, which would strengthen bilateral relations”.
The statement also noted that Modi had spoken to Rajapaksa on the issue on November 9.
The October 30 verdict had triggered protests and violence in Tamil Nadu. India had filed an appeal in the Supreme Court of
Sri Lanka on November 11 against the verdict.
Fishermen from the two countries often stray into each others’ waters, creating a thorny issue. The AIADMK and the DMK have regularly pressed the Centre to take up the matter seriously with Sri Lanka.