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Fishermen in Qatar jails spark concern.

FISHERMEN in Bahrain have expressed concerns over "an unprecedented move" by Qatar to jail their colleagues caught straying in its territorial waters.

Under normal circumstances, the sailors would be detained on their boats in a port until legal procedures are completed.

Eight Indian fishermen, who were taken into custody on August 31 have been put in jails in Al Khor and Doha, the GDN has learnt.

They are part of the 20 men arrested in Qatar along with 15 boats, according to Coastguard Commander Brigadier Ala'a Siyadi.

However, details of the remaining 12 were not available.

Mr Siyadi said on Monday that three Bahraini boats with 16 sailors aboard were seized in a span of three days, while the others were captured as long ago as 2009.

"Four men - Devadhas Ambrose, Suresh Tavian, Bennet Deckles and Nakulan - are in Al Khor jail," one of the fishermen who did not want to be named told the GDN.

"One of them called me from the jail on Tuesday evening and said that the other four are in Doha jail though we don't know their names yet.

"Usually, fishermen who get arrested when they stray into territorial waters are detained on their boats in a port until legal procedures are completed.

"This is the first time they have been put in jail and we are worried.

"Apparently, they were taken to court once and the next hearing is on Sunday.

"They are only allowed to use the phone once a week and that too for a limited time; that's when they call their families.

"Such a situation is new and we are really worried that their return could be delayed, as we learn that the sponsors are also helpless because of the issues between Bahrain and Qatar."

Protect

The GDN reported yesterday that the Foreign Ministry had hired a law firm to follow up the case of 16 Bahraini fishing vessels and 19 fishermen seized by authorities in Qatar.

The ministry said that it would take all necessary legal measures to protect the rights of the detained fishermen, especially after Qatar's repetition of such practices.

It also noted that dealing with these issues is governed by international maritime safety treaties, and Qatar should comply with relative legal procedures, stressing that it will continue its efforts to ensure the release of the fishermen and fishing vessels as soon as possible.

Earlier, the families of the fishermen, who said they were on the verge of starving, had expressed concern over the health of the men.

The eight men from Tamil Nadu, in India, are the employees of Bahrainis Jaffar Abdulali Sanidi and Hussain Mansoor Ahmed from Sitra.

The employers earlier told the GDN that they could do nothing, but wait because of the current situation in the GCC.

Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt severed ties with Qatar on June 5 following accusations that it supported terrorist groups - including radical outfits in Bahrain - and attempted to destabilise the region.

Bahrain closed its land, air and sea borders with Qatar and also revoked Qatar Airways' licence to operate here, ordered hotels and restaurants to cease broadcasts of Doha-based Al Jazeera, withdrew Bahraini diplomats from Doha and expelled Qatari diplomats.

The GDN reported in July that 14 Bahraini fishermen from Eker, Ma'ameer and Samaheej submitted a petition to the Bahraini Coastguard seeking help to get boats released by Qatari authorities.

The vessels and their crew were detained, some as way back as February, after straying into Qatar's territorial waters due to bad weather conditions or faulty navigation systems.

The fishermen were later released, but the boats were not.

Boat owners said that since the crisis involving Doha began, they have faced difficulty in contacting Qatari officials or obtaining release orders.

Indian embassies in Bahrain and Qatar did not respond when contacted by the GDN.

raji@gdn.com.bh

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Sep 22, 2017
Words:657
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