New Delhi/Kochi: The Kerala Police today took into custody the captain of the Italian ship and the crew members who have been accused of shooting at and killing two Indian fishermen on Wednesday.
The team was interrogating crew members and they were asked to surrender by 8 am today. Sources say a team of diplomats from Italy will arrive in Delhi today for discussions with the Indian authorities. The move is largely being seen as a ploy to buy more time.
Kochi Police Commissioner Mr Ajith Kumar, who visited the Italian ship Enrica Lexie on Saturday evening, had earlier said that the crew has agreed to hand over the two suspects. However, Italian authorities' intervention seems to have delayed the arrest.
According to sources, the Italian Consul General is currently amidst talks with the police.
External Affairs Minister SM Krishna had on Saturday told his Italian counterpart that the crew should cooperate with the Indian authorities. Mr Krishna told the media later that the loss of 'innocent lives' could have been avoided.
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.
The Captain and guards of the Italian ship had earlier refused to surrender to Kerala Police saying the incident happened in international waters. However, Indian authorities say the incident happened in the contiguous zone and it is well within their 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.
"We are not accepting their argument that it happened in international waters," Oommen Chandy, Kerala's Chief Minister had said.
The other defence, the Italians were using was that the firing was in retaliation to a pirate attack, but the Indian government says proper protocol was not followed.
Refuting earlier claims by Italian embassy officials in Delhi that the Indian vessel attacked the Italian ship in international waters, Mr Krishna said that Indian authorities had information that no firearms were present on board the fishing vessel, which was only carrying fishing nets and fish.