(MENAFN - Arab News) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been urged to use diplomatic channels to secure the release of 19 Indian fishermen who were working at a Saudi company at the time they were kidnapped.
The fishermen, from the southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, were working as contract laborers on the fishing boats of a private Saudi company and are now in jail in Iran. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha has urged the Indian prime minister to use diplomatic channels to get them released and repatriated.
In a letter to the prime minister, she said the fishermen reportedly ventured into Iranian waters and were taken into custody in December 2012, where they were later convicted and imprisoned with a fine of $6,000.
Speaking to Arab News, Sibi George, minister and deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, said that they have received a letter from the Indian Embassy in Tehran and are looking into the matter to resolve the issue at the earliest.
"We are working on it. We are in touch with Iranian authorities and coordinating with the Indian Embassy in Tehran to secure the earliest possible release of the 19 Indian fishermen who were working with a Saudi company in Dammam and Jubail," he said, adding, "I also met their sponsors in Dammam to secure their release."
George said that the primary liability lies on the Saudi employer to secure their release since the fishermen were contract laborers. The sponsors, however, have said that the fishermen were working with them on part-time basis and were not salaried employees.
However, they agreed to pay the amount stipulated to secure their release on condition that Iranian authorities return their boats.
George said the embassy is in touch with the two governments. "I have also spoken to Vijay Kumar, secretary of the fisheries department for the government of Tamil Nadu in India regarding this," he said, adding that the Indian embassies in Saudi Arabia and Iran are working together to reach a solution.