Italian ship to be searched for weapon, victim's kin seek relief

Italian ship to be searched for weapon, victim's kin seek relief

A day after two Italian ship officials were sent to police custody for killing two Indian fishermen, a Kerala court Tuesday allowed investigators to look for the murder weapon on the vessel and the Kerala High Court admitted three pleas over the incident. One of the pleas by a victim's kin seeks Rs.1 crore compensation.

Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were allegedly mistaken as pirates and shot dead by the crew of the Italian cargo vessel "Enrica Lexie" Feb 15, about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha.

Italians Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone were picked up from the vessel Sunday and arrested. A court near Kollam Monday sent them to 14 days in custody, with the police given the first three days to interrogate them.

The owners of the controversial Italian ship filed a petition in the high court that no fresh arrests should be made without hearing their version.

The Kollam chief judicial magistrate earlier gave Kollam police, who have taken over the investigation, a search warrant to trace the weapon on the ship.

Kochi Police Commissioner M.R. Ajith Kumar, who initially oversaw the probe, said that "till Feb 23, the investigation team will be free to take the two Italian security officials to places where they want to take forward the probe".

"The weapon used for shooting the fishermen has been kept under lock in the ship. A search warrant would help investigators go to the ship with the two accused and take possession of the weapon," said Kumar.

The family of Gelastine filed a petition in the high court seeking a  compensation of Rs.1 crore. The plea said the ship should not be allowed to leave Indian waters till the relief was paid.

The petition was filed by Advocate Vincent. The Kollam Diocese, to which Gelastine belonged, was supporting the family.

Father Rajesh Martin, local priest and a relative of Gelastine, said they decided to go ahead with the petition on the legal advice that it would make the case strong.

"We have claimed a compensation of Rs.1 crore because we feel that this would be the amount required for his children's education and for future requirements," Martin told reporters.

"We have prayed in our petition that once the compensation amount is deposited in the court, only then should the vessel be allowed  to leave the Indian waters," said Martin.

Various fishermen's organisation held a protest march near the Kollam collectorate and also in the state capital demanding that strong action should be taken against the Italians who shot dead the two fishermen.

C. Peter, who led the agitation in the state capital, told IANS that they have raised the demand that the captain of the vessel should also be arrested.

"We earlier decided to ring the Italian vessel, currently berthed in the outer sea in Kochi, as a mark of protest but police requested that since the arrest of the Italians has been made, it should be avoided and we agreed to that," said Peter.

In another development, Dolphin Tankers, the owners of the ship, moved the high court saying a fair hearing should be given to them before any fresh arrest.

Speaking to IANS, counsel for the company V.J. Mathew said a petition was also filed by the family of Gelastine.

"We also filed a petition praying that there should be no ex-parte arrest and the court accepted both the petitions and posted them for further hearing tomorrow," said Mathew.

A third petition on the incident was filed by A. Basil, demanding that adequate compensation should be given to the family of the two  fishermen. It would also be heard Wednesday.

Reports indicated that the Italian consulate may file a petition Wednesday in the high court pointing out that since the incident took place in international waters, the case could not be tried in any court other than an international court of law.