RADHICA DE SILVA

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Coast Guard officers have been accused of assaulting two fishermen after they intercepted a boat which they claim was returning from Venezuelan waters.

But relatives of the two men say the boat was in territorial waters and they fishermen were innocent.President of the Icacos Fishing Association Esook Ali said his grandson was assaulted by a Coast Guard officer and was only released when he started gasping for breath.

Ali said while he had no problem with the Coast Guard protecting the waters, he was against the arrest and harassment of innocent fishermen who never crossed to the Venezuelan border.

He claimed, “It’s over 10 fishermen face this kind of treatment. They have beaten people mercilessly and taken away their goods. I agree that if someone does something illegally, then the full force of the law should be applied but if you catch somebody fishing why you treating them this way.”

He added, “We have people doing illegal things but not everybody doing this.”Ali said he had hired an attorney and planned to take legal action.

However, the T&T Coast Guard, in a statement, denied that anyone was beaten.

Public affairs officer of the Cuast Guard Khadija Lamy said while conducting border security patrols yesterday, the Coast Guard intercepted a vessel named ‘FV’ZAFRULLA III’ south-west of Icacos.

“The vessel had been observed rendezvousing with another vessel across the border from Trinidad in Venezuelan waters. FV’Zafrulla III was stopped as they attempted to re-enter Trinidad waters. Onboard were two male nationals. Upon searching the vessel, a large cargo of shrimp and fish was discovered. The crew was interviewed and it was revealed that the contents of the vessel were purchased from Venezuelans,” Lamy said.

The vessel was detained and its crew and cargo were handed over to representatives of the police, Customs and Excise Division and Immigration Division.

Lamy said the Coast Guard continues to provide border security services in the face of the threat of Covid-19 through the conduct of maritime security patrols within territorial waters.