A court in the Philippines has issued an order for the release of 12 Chinese fishermen who were arrested and sentenced to long-term jail time for fishing in Philippine territory, the Philippine daily newspaper the Chinese Commercial News reported.
On April, 2013, the Philippine police arrested 12 Chinese fishermen when their fishing vessel ran aground in Tubbataha Reef.
The coral reef is well within Philippine territory. The fishermen say they were taking refuge there during a storm.
Later in 2014, the Palawan court in the Philippines convicted the fishermen of poaching and violating the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Act of 2009.
They were the first foreigners to be found guilty of violating the law, according to the South China Morning Post.
The vessel’s captain, Liu Wenjie, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, and 11 other fishermen got sentences ranging from 6 to 10 years.
A public attorney defending these men told Reuters that he believes the Chinese fishermen are innocent. “They did not intend to go into Philippine territory, but were forced there by bad weather,” the lawyer said.
The exact release date for these fishermen is not clear at the moment.