Relatives of detained Egyptian fishermen in Sudan held a press conference Sunday to demand that President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi help the release of the fishermen, who have been detained for over 80 days.
Dozens of detainees’ relatives gathered for the conference that was held in the Al-Karama Party’s headquarters, and signed a petition to Al-Sisi urging him to intervene.
The 101 fishermen, from Al-Matariya in Daqahleya governorate, were detained by the Sudanese authorities in April. They were on board three fishing boats that were heading to Eritrea, according to the independent fishermen association in Al-Matariya.
The fishermen were arrested on grounds of infiltrating Sudanese territorial waters, which the fishermen claim did not happen. The Port Sudan Court sentenced the fishermen to between one and six months in prison, in addition to a fine of 5,000 Sudanese pounds (EGP 6,636), followed by a two-year prison sentence for not paying the fines.
Seven fishermen were released after a week in detention, and returned to Egypt as they were either minors or too old.
Daily News Egypt spoke to two of them, Abdelrahman and Ramadan, who are both 16 years old and who were on the detained boats. They said that a Sudanese battleship fired at the boats, forcing them to stop and then dragged them into Sudanese waters.
“We were on way to Eritrea, with a licence to fish there when a Sudanese battleship fired at us,” Abdelrahman said.
He added that the boats obeyed the order to follow the battleship to a Sudanese port, where they found a report and a lawsuit waiting for them.
Ramadan said the fishermen were detained on the boats for three days before being taken to the city of Port Sudan, where the 101 fishermen are now detained.
The fishermen’s relatives and the independent syndicate remained in contact with the Foreign Ministry in a bid to find solution to the case of the detainees who were acquitted of their initial charges. They then found themselves facing another case, which remains ongoing, but the efforts remain fruitless.
“Pouring more injustice, the Sudanese authorities made up another case against them and currently they are detained on behalf of this case,” a statement from the relatives read.
The ministry told the relatives in a meeting on 16 June that it is providing maximum effort in coordination with Sudanese authorities to secure the fishermen’s release and return home.
Taha El-Sheridy, leader of the independent Matariya Fishermen Association in Daqahleya, told Daily News Egypt at the time that the ministry’s spokesman, Badr Abdelatty, connected the family representatives with the Egyptian ambassador to Sudan and the counsel in Port Sudan who said there will be alleviation in the crisis within the upcoming week.
A week went by and the issue remain unsolved, while El-Sheridy said a day after the meeting that a similar promise was made by the government three weeks before.
El-Sheridy said in the conference Sunday that “we want Al-Sisi to welcome the Egyptian fishermen the same way he received the Ethiopians”, referring to the Ethiopians who fled the ongoing crisis in Libya and were received by Al-Sisi in May.
The fishermen’s relatives demanded Al-Sisi’s “immediate intervention to do what is needed to release those poor fishermen and get them back home”.
“We, families and relatives of those fishermen, suffer from being apart from them and we don’t know what will be their fate or why they are detained for almost three months now as the suffering increases in the holy month of Ramadan,” the relatives’ statement read.