Vietnam asks Indonesia to hold fair trials for fishermen accused of illegal activities

By Anh Ngoc   December 18, 2017 | 08:07 pm PT
Two fishermen have been charged with illegal fishing by Indonesian authorities.

Five Vietnamese fishermen captured by Indonesian forces for alleged illegal fishing have been on hunger strike since last week.

A court in Indonesia’s Ranai City sentenced two of the fishermen to either five months in jail or a IDR500 million ($37,000) fine last Tuesday.

The fishermen from Kien Giang Province were seized in waters near the Natuna Islands in April.

Staff from Vietnam’s embassy in Indonesia said they have met with the five fishermen and offered them their full support.

The foreign ministry and the embassy have been working with Indonesian authorities since the fishermen were arrested in an effort to protect their rights. Vietnam has on multiple occasions asked Indonesia to carry out fair trials in accordance with international laws, and release fishermen and their vessels if there is no conclusive evidence against them.

Cao Van Hoang and Hua Van Trung, along with three other captains and their crews, were arrested by Indonesian authorities for alleged illegal fishing in Indonesian waters.

The 58 crewmen were later released, but the boats were impounded and their captains charged with bottom trawling in Indonesia's Exclusive Economic Zone, according to Vietnam News Agency. While bottom trawling is a fishing method allowed in Vietnam, Indonesia bans the practice due to the damage it causes to the ocean floor.

The Indonesian court found Hoang and Trung guilty on December 12, and the other three captains are also facing similar sentences at their upcoming trials in mid January. The fishermen, however, insist that they have been wrongfully prosecuted.

At his trial, Trung claimed the group had been fishing in Vietnamese waters using a map provided by Vietnamese authorities at the time of the arrest, Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reported.

Following the arrest, armed Indonesian law enforcers sailed their boats into a disputed area claimed by both countries before forcing them to sign their arrest warrants, the newspaper quoted Trung as saying. The warrants were in a foreign language and had the new location's coordinates on them instead of the spot the boats were seized.

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