Kochi/New Delhi: Four days after two Indian fishermen were shot dead by the crew of an Italian ship, two naval personnel onboard the vessel have been charged with murder. The move came shortly after the armed crew members were taken into custody by the Kerala Police.
The accused, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone - part of the six-member security detail of the ship Enrica Lexie - were brought to the Kochi shore by the cops. The duo was then taken to a CISF guest house at the nearby Wellignton island for detailed interrogation. They will then be handed over to the police in Kollam where a First Information Report (FIR) has been registered in the case.
Earlier, the crew members who were being interrogated by the police had been asked to surrender by 8 am today. But the process was delayed with Italy hardening its stance on the matter. Earlier today, an Italian delegation arrived in the national capital and met senior officials from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Sources have told NDTV that the Italians tried hard for a concession, contending that the men held in custody were marines but India refused to budge from its stated stand.
"We had a fairly comprehensive discussion whereby we have explained to them the rationale of our position and the situation as it exists today. We have also explained to them that as good partners and as External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had requested yesterday, we hope Italy will cooperate with us in ensuring law of the land takes its course. We also requested them to fully cooperate with Kerala Police," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.
The meeting between the both sides happened just hours after External Affairs Minister S M Krishna publicly urged the Italians to cooperate in the ongoing investigations.
"I have been in talks with the Italian foreign minister and the Kerala chief minister...the law of the land will have to take its own course, we have advised the Italians to cooperate with the Kerala law agencies to achieve an amicable solution. I am expecting the Italian foreign minister to come on the 28th," Mr Krishna said.
The minister had yesterday indulged in some tough talk, telling his Italian counterpart that the ship's crew must cooperate with Indian authorities. He later told the media that the loss of "innocent lives" could have been avoided had the naval personnel onboard Enrica Lexie been careful and exercised restraint.
The death of the fishermen has snowballed into a major diplomatic stand-off between both nations. Italy contends that the incident happened in international waters and hence, a case could not be made against its crew by Indian authorities. India, on its part, insists that the firing occurred in the contiguous zone that is well within its jurisdiction. The contiguous zone is a band of water extending from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles or 44 kilometres from the baseline.
Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelastine, 45, from Kerala, were mistaken for pirates and shot dead by the crew of an Italian ship on Wednesday evening about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha.
Story first published:
February 19, 2012 17:12 IST