Twelve Sri Lankan Tamils, arrested by the Kollam police on June 3 after they apprehended a human trafficking racket on a crude mechanised fishing boat at Kavanad here, were released from judicial custody on Saturday by F. Minimol, magistrate of the Judicial First Class Court-II in Kollam.
Advocate Ramesh Kumar, appearing as their counsel, said they were being released from judicial custody under the provisions of a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) notification, which classifies them as victims and not accused persons.
Not free yet
The court declared them as victims on the basis of a report submitted to the government by the investigating officer. Assistant Public Prosecutor Manjula Itty, who appeared for the case, said that though they were released they were not free.
The men will be deported to Sri Lanka after completion of formalities. Till then they will be under government protection at the Pathanapuram Gandhi Bhavan near here.
They are not permitted to leave the premises, but can meet and talk to their relatives who have been here for the past 40 days with the hope of returning with them.The 12 were brought to the Collectorate here in the evening from the Thiruvananthapuram Central Jail in a police vehicle and formally handed over to the Gandhi Bhavan authorities by Collector P.G. Thomas.
Before being taken to Gandhi Bhavan they told The Hindu that they would be very happy to return to their homes in Sri Lanka.
No travel documents
Those released hail from Uttala Mavattam of the Northern Province. They were arrested on charges of violating the Foreigners Act for not being in possession of proper travel documents. They were part of a group of 151 Sri Lankan Tamils comprising women and children arrested by the police from the boat.
All of them were victims of the human trafficking racket. They said their destination was Australia and that they had paid the traffickers amounts ranging between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh each as fare. The majority of those arrested were Sri Lankan Tamil refugees housed in various refugee camps in Tamil Nadu who had sneaked out in the hope of going to Australia.
Those from the refugee camps were identified and sent back to the camps. But 14 men who directly came from Sri Lanka without any travel documents were arrested.
Two persons could not be released as they had not engaged a lawyer. But it is learnt that they too will be released next week under the provisions of the MEA notification.
The names of those released were given as Satish, Sivakumar, Thangavelu, Kanakaselvan, Kavivarunan, Vignesh Selvan, Dinesh, Nishanthan, Kishokant, Yogeshwaran, Sanadas and Krishnakant. (The Hindu)