Deputy spokesman of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry Nazih El-Nagary confirmed Sunday, that a Sudanese court has acquitted 15 Egyptian fishermen detained two weeks ago for illegally entering Sudanese territorial waters.

The court stated that there was no evidence proving that the fisherman aboard the “Aboul Ela” boat had broken the law when entering Sudanese territory.

Instead, El-Nagary stated, the Sudanese tribunal ruled that the fishermen were exercising the right of “innocent passage”, a provision under international law.

According to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, passage is “innocent” as long as it is not “prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal State.” El-Nagary asserted that the boat entered Sudanese waters as the fishermen had run out of fuel.

On Sunday, Egypt’s consul-general in Sudan attended the court hearing of the detained Egyptian citizens.

The announcement of the court verdict comes a day after Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir visited Egypt where he met with President Morsi. During the visit, the presidents agreed to inaugurate an Egypt-Sudan highway and the Sudanese branch of Egypt’s National Bank by the end of this week.

2010 Ahram Online