Stepping up their efforts, family members of 18 fishermen from Tamil Nadu languishing in an Iranian jail on Wednesday petitioned Chief Minister Jayalalithaa to exert pressure on the Centre for setting free their kin.
The family members of the fishermen, hailing from Kanyakumari and Ramanathapuram, called on Fisheries Minister K A Jayapaul here seeking the state government's assistance in securing the release of the arrested fishermen.
In a letter to the Chief Minister, they pleaded that her government insist the Centre to take up the matter with the Iranian authorities.
Employed by Saudi traders, the fishermen were arrested in December 2012 by Iran Coast Guard for allegedly crossing the maritime boundary, M Karunanmurthy, District Secretary of a fishing association who accompanied the family members, told reporters here.
During the meeting with the Minister, financial help to the kin of the fishermen was sought as they were "suffering due to poverty," Karunamurthy said.
"While we have not heard from the arrested fishermen directly, we have, however, come to know through acquaintances that four of them have been awarded one year's prison term and there is a possibility of appealing against it. The Central government should arrange for legal assistance to them," Karunamurthy said.
As there was no proper information on where the fishermen were lodged in Iran, the Centre should seek details in this regard, he urged.
He also said they had earlier taken up the issue with the district administration.