Italian shooting: Legal battle begins

Italian shooting: Legal battle begins

After a 12-hour search on Italian cargo ship "Enrica Lexie", the Kerala Police team returned to land early Sunday morning with four suitcases that contatined eight guns, an officer said.

"The search and seizure operation is now over and we have got what we needed," Kerala police investigating team leader M.R. Ajith Kumar told reporters.

The Kerala Police team investigating the shooting of two Indian fishermen by marine guards aboard the Italian vessel, took 12 hours to complete the search of the vessel.

Two separate teams of Indian and Italian experts Saturday began the search of the Italian ship to examine the weapons used by the security guards to shoot two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on Feb 15th.

The first team comprised Kerala Police officials, forensic and ballistic experts and the second team consisted of Italian officials, including two army majors from Italy who reached here early Saturday.

A court in Kollam, 150 Kms from here, Thursday extended the police custody of Italian Marines Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, after police seeked more time for interrogation. The next hearing on the custody will be on Feb 28.
The boxes retrieved during the search would be kept at a police station here Sunday, and would be taken to the Kollam court Monday for a detailed forensic examination.

According to Kumar, the Italian delegation currently in the state has fully cooperated with the ongoing inquiry.

With the first round of the police investigation now over, the scene would now shift to the legalities in court rooms, at Kollam and at the Kerala high court here.
The Kollam court Tuesday will decide upon the custody of the arrested Italian officials.

The same day, the high court will hear the Italian counsel as they continue to maintain that the firing incident took place in international waters and should be tried according to international law.

The high court will also decide if the vessel should be in the custody of the Kerala police or not.

Currently, the high court has asked the ship owners of "Enrica Lexie" to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs.five million, after the owners of the ill fated boat St. Antony, on which the two Indian fishermen were killed, demanded a combined compensation of Rs.3 crores.

Freddie, the owner of the boat St. Antony said: "My boat has been damaged in the firing and the fishing equipment on my ship has also been damaged. We estimate a loss of Rs. six million. When the firing took place we had a catch of Rs.1.5 lakhs. Also, the nine fishermen who escaped are now in a state of mental shock. None of us have been able to get back to work. We have to get adequate compensation for the damage both material and mental."

The incident occurred Feb 15 when the Italian security officials allegedly mistook the Indian fishermen for pirates and shot them dead in their own boat.

While the Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura has already visited here, his senior colleague, the Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi will land in New Delhi Tuesday for talks with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna and is expected to arrive here on Wednesday.