Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Italy regrets killing of fishermen

India and Italy Wednesday failed to resolve their row over the killing of two Indian fishermen, with Rome reiterating the deaths took place in international waters and New Delhi insisting that the two arrested Italian Marines will face Indian law.

After holding talks with Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura voiced “terrible sadness” over the Feb 15 killing of the fishermen off Kerala.

“We do acknowledge and recognize that two Indian fishermen died. No one doubts it, and it is terribly sad,” de Mistura told reporters here, ahead of his visit to Kerala where the Marines are in custody.

The Italian Marines on board an Italian ship who fired at the fishermen thinking they were pirates now face murder charge.
De Mistura said the incident took place in international waters “and investigation will ascertain the exact position” of the Italian ship.

“We are taking it seriously. We are definitely expressing terrible sadness and regret over the loss of lives. “Two Indian fishermen did die and they belontged to poor families of Kerala,” he added.

Kaur indicated the talks had failed to resolve the India-Italy dispute. “We will certainly go by our law,” she said. “As far as the law point is (concerned), they have their interpretation and we have our interpretation.”

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is also set to visit India for further talks. Italy says the incident took place in international waters and the Marines cannot be tried in Indian courts. New Delhi contests both the claims.

Kaur said the Italian Marines “are on Indian soil” and “we have taken note of what (de Mistura) said”. The Italian ship, Enrica Lexie, is now berthed in Kochi. Marines Salvatore Girone and Latorre Massimillano were arrested Sunday on Kerala soil.

Italy says the presence of armed naval personnel on board a merchant ship flying the Italian flag is ruled by a specific Italian law in keeping with UN resolutions regarding the war on piracy. A Kerala court has issued a warrant to search the Italian ship to seize the gun that killed the Indians.

Italy probes why ship docked in Kerala
ROME: Italian authorities are probing why its merchant ship ignored the Italian Navy’s objections and docked in Kerala leading to the arrest of two of its marines for the killing of two Indian fishermen. It is also looking at the sequence of events that has sparked an unprecedented diplomatic row between Italy and India.

A colonel is collecting evidence from military headquarters and the shipping company to ascertain if they sent Enrica Lexie into Kochi harbour in Kerala, Italian media reported.

Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone were arrested by Kerala Police on murder charges. Italy insists that the ship was in international waters when the incident took place and that the marines cannot be tried in India. New Delhi is not ready to accept either argument.

The media report said that, according to established procedure, decisions on board the ship are taken by the captain in agreement with the shipping company. But in an emergency, action is decided with the military authorities and the Italian government.

The investigation will find out if the shipping firm took the decision to leave international waters and with whom they negotiated. Massimiliano Latorre, who was in charge of the security unit on board the oil tanker, has reconstructed the sequence of events, according to the website.

His report says that a third warning burst was aimed “into the sea across the bows of the fishing boat, which was not hit and in fact changed direction and turned back”. 

The report, containing photographs, denies that there could have been any casualties. The case file has statements from the five other service personnel on board.

The media report said that there are a number of questions and the versions supplied by the Italian military personnel and the Indian authorities differ.

According to the report forwarded to Rome, the alarm was sounded at 11.30 a.m. Feb 15 February when the Enrica Lexie was “thirty-three miles off the south-west coast of India”. The position is shown by the ship’s satellite link but Indian authorities contest it.

Giving the sequence of events, the security official’s report said: “The radar picked up a vessel on a collision course and the marines on board prepared to react. The security unit carried out the prescribed procedures for such cases. When the vessel is 500 metres away, the first warning shots are fired. Another warning burst is fired at 300 metres and a third at 100 metres”.

Latorre stated that the final warning shots are fired into the water “without striking the vessel”. However, Indian authorities claim that the fishing boat bears the marks of sixteen projectiles while four hit their target killing the two fishermen. Italian investigators and diplomats dispute this version as it would mean that all the shots were fired straight at the men.

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