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Fishermen's killing: Two crewmen brought ashore, Italians told to cooperate

Sunday February 19, 2012 07:10:14 PM, IANS

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Kochi/New Delhi: Two crew members of an Italian tanker who allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen in the Arabian Sea Sunday were brought ashore from the vessel by Kerala Police Sunday, even as Italian officials, who held talks with their Indian counterparts, were asked to let the law of the land take its course.

Though police did not make it clear if the two crew members were arrested, it was clear that they were recording the statements of the Italian tanker Enrica Lexie's crew members on the episode that took place off the Kerala coast Wednesday.

The owners of the ship had late Saturday agreed to cooperate with the inquiry.

Speaking to reporters in Kochi, Inspector General of Police K. Padmakumar said: "The case has been registered by the Kollam police and now it is their job to take forward the case and they will do the needful after further questioning. The two Italians are Lestorae and Selvasurae. I cannot say anything further now."

He said that detailed statements were taken by the investigating officials from the captain of the ship and other crew members.

"Since the case has been registered by the Kollam police, it would be a court in Kollam district which would look into this case," said Padmakumar.

A police team, also comprising ballistic and forensic experts, boarded the ship Sunday morning for investigations.

Officials from the Italian Embassy were also aboard the ship and were in constant touch with their officials, who landed in New Delhi for talks with the Indian counterparts.

After about three hours of talks at South Block, a ministry of external affairs spokesperson said the Italian authorities have been asked to let the law of the land take its course in the case.

The Italian team comprised officials from the foreign, law, justice and defence ministries and the Indian side was represented by officials from ministry of external affairs and home affairs.

Meanwhile, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna told reporters that the Italian authorities have been advised to fully cooperate with the Indian investigators in Kerala for finding an amicable solution to the issue. He also said that the law of the land would take its own course.

In a phone conversation with his Italian counterpart Giulio Terzi Saturday, Krishna made it very clear that the captain and crew of the Italian ship will have to surrender and cooperate in the investigation of the case.

The Italian foreign minister had called Krishna, according to a release.

The Indian minister told his counterpart that loss of lives could have been avoided had the naval personnel on board the Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie been careful and exercised restraint.

"Our information clearly indicated that the Indian fishermen were not carrying any arms or ammunition on board their vessel. Indian fishing vessels do not carry these on board but only fishing nets and the fish they catch," Krishna was quoted as telling his counterpart.

He also informed that Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy had conveyed to the central government "the strong public opinion and agitation in Kerala" at the lives lost and the need for an urgent resolution of the crisis.

Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelastine, 45, from Kerala, were mistaken as pirates and shot dead by the crew of the Italian cargo vessel on Wednesday evening, about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha.









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