India rejects Italy plea on ship gunmen

Krishna says Indian law will apply to crew who killed fishermen

India has rejected Italy’s suggestion for a “mutually acceptable procedure” to determine responsibility for the death of two fishermen, who were recently killed by bullets shot by the Italian Navy personnel from the MV Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala last Wednesday.

New Delhi also made it clear to Rome that it had no doubt that the fishermen had not been carrying any arms or ammunition on their vessel.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told his Italian counterpart Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’Agata on Saturday that law should be allowed to take its course and the ship’s captain and two personnel involved in the shooting should fully cooperate with Kerala Police officials probing the incident.

Terzi on Saturday called up Krishna to seek a “mutually acceptable procedure to establish the facts beyond any doubt and determine responsibilities” for the death of the two fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, and Jalastein, 45, who were killed by bullets fired by the Italian Navy personnel on board “MV Enrica Lexie” off the coast of Kerala last Wednesday.

“Our information clearly indicated that Indian fishermen were not carrying any arms or ammunition on board their vessel. Indian fishing vessels do not carry these onboard, but only fishing nets and fish they catch,” Krishna told the Italian Foreign Minister.

Home Secretary R K Singh on Friday said that the incident would be dealt with in accordance with the legal system of India.

Enquiries opened

The Italian Navy and prosecutors in Rome on Saturday announced that they both had opened enquiries into the incident that took place off the coast of southern India. The Italian embassy in New Delhi had earlier claimed that the Navy personnel onboard the “Enrica Lexie” had fired “warning shots” only after confirming by using binoculars that the men on the vessel approaching the ship had been armed.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, Krishna conveyed to Terzi that it was unfortunate that innocent lives had been lost, which “could have been avoided had the naval personnel on board the MV Enrica Lexie been careful and exercised restraint”.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the Italian Embassy in New Delhi had alleged that the “MV Enrica Lexie” had been attacked in international waters about 30 nautical miles off the south west coast of India on Wednesday.

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