Two Italian marines sent to police custody in Kerala for 3 days in shooting case

New Delhi, February 20, 2012

A court in Kollam today remanded the two Italian Naval guards on board a Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie who have been accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala on February 15, to two weeks in judicial custody and sent them to police custody for three days.

The guards were taken into police custody by the Kochi police yesterday and taken today to Kollam, where the case had been registered.
They were produced at the residence of the magistrate in Kollam who heard arguments from both sides for about 90 minutes before pronouncing his order. Youth Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers staged protests outside the magistrate's residence against the killing of the two Indian fishermen.
The Italian marines, identified as Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, were then taken back to Kochi for further investigations, a police official told NetIndian over the telephone.
The Italians argued that the alleged offence had taken outside Indian jurisdiction and that they could not be proceeded against in India.
The two men have been charged with murder under section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.
Kochi Police Commissioner Ajith Kumar had visited the ship twice on Saturday and met the captain. He was understood to have made it clear to the captain that the two men suspected of having opened fire against the fishermen must surrender or face police action.
The Italian crew had been insisting that they would cooperate in the investigations only after meeting Italian officials.
The two fishermen, identified as Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelastine, 45, from Kerala were allegedly shot dead by the crew of the Italian vessel off the coast of Kerala after mistaking them for pirates.
On Saturday, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had told his Italian counterpart Giulio Maria Terzi that the law should be allowed to take its course in the incident.
Krishna made it clear to the Italian minister that the personnel on board Enrica Lexie, particularly the captain of the ship and the two concerned men involved in the shooting, should fully cooperate with the Indian investigating authorities. He hoped the issue would be satisfactorily resolved.
Meanwhile, an Italian delegation, led by the country's Ambassador in India, met Indian officials in Delhi today to discuss various aspects of the case, which Italy thinks falls within its jurisdiction since, according to it, the incident occurred in international waters on a vessel carrying the Indian flag.
The delegation also underscored that the military presence aboard Italian mercantile ships is regulated by a specific Italian law that also corresponds with the needs of UN counter-piracy resolutions.
It was pointed out in this context that the military is an organ of the Italian Republic and therefore enjoys immunity from prosecution by foreign governments.
"The meeting did not lead to consensus. Contacts and collaboration between the two governments are considered essential to ascertaining the actual facts, in order to counter any unilateral actions undertaken by the police," the Italian Foreign Ministry said in Rome.
"The Consul General of Italy in Mumbai is ensuring assistance and protection to the Italian nationals involved, and is in constant contact with the foreign ministry’s Crisis Unit and the experts of the three ministries, and is monitoring all the actions undertaken by the local authorities," the statement added.
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