ELEVEN Indian fishermen from Bahrain have been held by Qatari authorities for up to three months after being caught raiding the country's fish stocks, it emerged yesterday. However, four Bahraini fishermen arrested last Friday by the Qatari Coast-guard have been released.
The body of their fellow Bahraini fisherman Moham-med Abdulwahab Hayan, who drowned when their boat capsized after it was rammed by a Qatari Coast-guard patrol, has also been returned to his family.
However, the 11 fishermen are still being held onboard their four vessels, docked in Ruweis and the Doha Bay, after they were arrested for straying into Qatari waters.
The four boats are owned by different Bahraini fishermen and each one will only be released upon payment of a BD5,000 fine.
"Seventeen Indian fishermen from Bahrain were caught sailing in the territorial waters of Qatar," Indian Community Benevolent Fund (ICBF) president Dr Mohan Thomas told the GDN yesterday.
"They came separately in four boats - two around three months ago and the other two around two months back.
"They claim they lost their direction before Coast-guards took them into custody.
"They are not in jail, but on their boats docked in Qat-ar's two ports.
"We managed to clear some cases and six Indians were sent back to Bahrain a couple of weeks ago.
"The others' cases are now at Qatar's Public Prosecution and if their sponsors in Bahrain pay the fine of 50,000 Qatari riyals (BD5,000) they will be released - or else they will be detained for six months."
The ICBF works under the umbrella of the Indian Embassy in Qatar and has been providing the fishermen with food, water and other assistance - including legal aid.
Dr Thomas said staff at the Indian mission in Qatar remained in touch with their counterparts in Bahrain.
"We have informed the Indian mission in Bahrain about the fishermen's condition," he said.
"They will contact the sponsors in Bahrain and do whatever is necessary at their end to enable the release of these men."
However, he stressed the need for the Indian Embassy in Bahrain - as well as community leaders here - to educate fishermen on the dangers of straying into a neighbouring country's territorial waters.
"The fishermen should understand that the risk involved in this is just too much, because many times they will be chased by the Coastg-uard," said Dr Thomas.
"When caught they are liable to pay BD5,000 as a fine to secure their release, which is an amount that their sponsors most times refuse to give - meaning they will be kept here (in Qatar) for months.
"So the lengths these men go to catch a few fish is just not worth it.
"Catering to the needs of these pe-ople is also a constant dra-in of our fun-ds and effort, though we will not cease to offer them support."
The GDN reported on Tues-day that Bahraini fishermen were demanding the lifting of fishing restrictions across the Gulf - saying they had no choice but to raid Qatar's fish stocks.
Fishermen's Protection Soci-ety honorary president Waheed Al Dossary claimed they were being forced to break the law because Bahrain's own fish stocks had been killed off by land reclamation.
He suggested that fishermen of all GCC countries should have access to fish stocks of each member state, after Mr Hayan's body was recovered from Qatari waters on Monday.
An Interior Ministry source yesterday told the GDN that all legal procedures relating to the case of Mr Hayan and his four colleagues had been "taken care of" in Qatar.
Copyright 2009 Gulf Daily News
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