Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah agreed Tuesday to free nine Vietnamese fishermen arrested by Brunei authorities while fishing in the East Sea last month, the Vietnam News Agency reported.
The release was made at the request of Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who paid an official visit to Brunei Darusalam the same day.
On January 20, fishing boat BĐ 96092TS with nine crew members on board was seized by Brunei marine police while catching tuna in the East Sea.
All the fishermen hail from the central province of Binh Dinh.
The fishermen were detained at a police station awaiting trial.
On February 4, a Brunei court ordered the captain of the Vietnamese fishing boat to pay US$10,000 and each fisherman to pay $750 as fines in lieu of jail terms.
The court ruled that the captain will be jailed for one year and each fisherman for one month if they are unable to pay the fines.
Employees of the Vietnamese Embassy in Brunei attended the trial as interpreters for Vietnamese fishermen. There were no lawyers to defend the fishermen, who claimed they were fishing in the territorial waters of Vietnam.
Brunei authorities presented evidence to the court showing the fishermen had violated the territorial waters of the country.