10/31/2014, 00.00

Sri Lanka, "premeditated" death sentence for five Indian fishermen

Nirmala Carvalho
According to Jesuit priest Santhanam, the judgment issued by the Sri Lankan court is the result of decades of conflict between Delhi and Colombo over trespassing in territorial waters. The verdict "contradicts Pope Francis’ position against the death penalty".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A "premeditated" death sentence: This is how Fr. Santhanam, SJ, a Jesuit priest and lawyer in the court of Madurai, comments to AsiaNews on the verdict issued by a Sri Lankan court, yesterday against five Indian fishermen.

The defendants, Christians from the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, had been arrested for drug trafficking in 2011 by the Sri Lankan Navy. The courts have given them until the end of November 2014 to appeal to the Supreme Court.

According to the Indian Jesuit, who provides legal assistance to the poor, marginalized and dalits, the ruling "is the result of the ongoing dispute between India and Sri Lanka" over encroachment of fishermen in "each other's territorial waters". These men, adds Fr. Santhanam, "said they went out to go fishing and they have anchored their boat near Neduntheevu to solve technical problems. There is no doubt that drug trafficking is a serious crime, but this is not the case".

"The killing of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy - underlines the lawyer - has always attracted criticism. Now this killing has been sanctioned by a court, it is a judicial murder."

For the priest, "the death penalty will always be a fierce and primitive form of barbarism. Recently, Pope Francis urged the abolition of the death penalty and even life in prison. His visit to the island is eagerly awaited, but this verdict contradicts the spirit the words of the Holy See".


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See also
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Indian activist: The Pope's words on the death penalty and life in prison, a stimulus for reform