An Iranian court has ruled that 15 Indian fishermen who were detained in the country last October can be released. A copy of the court order acquired by Scroll.in reads that the case against the men has “been lifted”, and that they can leave “if there are no other offences against them”. However, this leaves 22 more men in Iran’s custody.
The 15 fishermen from Tamil Nadu had been taken into custody by Iranian authorities on October 22, 2016, after allegedly straying into Iranian waters while on their way from Bahrain to Sharjah. The other 22 were arrested between August 2016 and January this year.
“We were shown some papers yesterday. We were told that it is our release letter and we can leave Iran in five days. We hope it will happen,” M Sathya Sagar Vijiya Babu, one of the fishermen, told Scroll.in. “However, till we leave this port, we won’t say that we are free.”
Following their arrest in October 2016 and after spending a few days in jail, Sathya and his friends had been shifted to boats in Kish Island, which were under strict surveillance. They said Iranian authorities provided them little food and water.
This was even after their Bahraini sponsor had paid the fines imposed on them by an Iranian court. Other formalities for their release had also been completed. Their employer had paid a fine of Rs 10 lakh per boat in November 2016.
Josephine Valarmathi from the non-profit National Domestic Workers Movement in Chennai, who had filed official complaints with the government on behalf of the fishermen’s families, said she had contacted the Indian missions in both Bahrain and Iran on Thursday. “I am in touch with them. Hopefully, the fishermen will be released without much delay. I had to push the embassies,” she added.
Of the 22 other Indian fishermen waiting to come back, five were working in Saudi Arabia and the remaining 17 in Dubai. The five were arrested in August 2016 and the group from Dubai in January this year.
Responding to a tweet with the Scroll.in report, the Indian Embassy in Bahrain had said that the “matter [had been] taken up by our mission in Tehran with concerned authorities for their early release”.