Sri Lanka held out hope for the five Indian fishermen sentenced to death, with visiting Sri Lankan Minister Sarath Amunugama saying there have been no executions in the island nation for the past decade and the issue will be resolved with India.
In answer to a query, International Monetary Cooperation Minister Amunugama told journalists on the sidelines of an event here: “No execution has happened in Sri Lanka for the past 10 years. I am sure that this issue (of the Indian fishermen) will be resolved with India.”
The minister said the matter was in the Sri Lankan court and the judicial process has to be completed first. And it was up to the executive authority to decide on whether to carry out the sentence.
India has voiced concern over the death sentence passed Oct 30 by the Colombo High Court on five fishermen – Emerson, P. Augustus, R. Wilson, K. Prasath and J. Langlet – on charges of smuggling heroin. They were arrested in 2011.
On Tuesday, India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Yash Sinha met the five Indian fishermen at Colombo’s Welikada prison and assured them of every effort to secure their early release and repatriation.
Sinha assured the fishermen of unstinted support and cooperation of the Indian government in ensuring that their case receives the utmost attention, said official sources.
India is waiting for the final copy of the court judgment in order to appeal against it.
India’s external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said earlier in New Delhi that India and Sri Lanka have in place a “legal architecture” to deal with such cases and cited an earlier instance in which the death sentences of two Indian nationals were commuted to life imprisonment by the then Sri Lankan president.
The two Indians served some period of their sentence in Sri Lanka, and under an agreement by which a sentenced prisoner can serve the sentence in their respective countries, the two were transferred to India in 2013.
While one has completed his sentence and been set free, the other is still serving his sentence in India, the spokesman had said.
There have been protests in Tamil Nadu against the death sentence to the five fishermen.