Counsel appearing for the fishermen was not available for comment on Tuesday, but it is reliably learnt that the appeal has been withdrawn in anticipation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa using his constitutional powers to pardon them or commute their sentence to life. As per Sri Lanka’s Constitution, a presidential pardon could be a full pardon or a commutation of the sentence.
Following the Colombo High Court judgment on October 30 sentencing to death the five Indian fishermen, besides three Sri Lankans – for alleged drug trafficking, an appeal was filed on November 11.
Meanwhile, New Delhi, which has maintained that the fishermen are innocent, had taken up the issue with top officials in Colombo, pushing for a full pardon rather than a commutation.
Sri Lankan Ministers and sources in the President’s office had earlier said a decision on the release or commutation was possible only if the appeal was withdrawn.
The five fishermen – P. Emerson, P. Augustus, R. Wilson, K. Prasath, and J. Lanklet – were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on November 28, 2011, near Delft Island off Jaffna peninsula on charges of drug peddling. (The Hindu)