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Fishermen killed: Italian, Indian officials to talk

Dakshina Muraleedharan | http://dakshinat

Updated: February 18, 2012, 8:30 PM IST
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Fishermen killed: Italian, Indian officials to talk
The Italian ship's crew has refused to be questioned, saying they will co-operate only after discussing the matter with their diplomats.

Kochi: Italian authorities are scheduled to talk to the Indian officials on Saturday night regarding the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by the crew members of Italian ship Enrica Lexie. Even two days after the incident took place, no arrests have been made.

The Italian ship's crew has refused to be questioned and said they will co-operate only after discussing the matter with their diplomats. The crew is awaiting the arrival of a high-level team of diplomats from Italy to meet officials in Delhi and then advise them on the next step.

Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata on Saturday spoke to his Indian counterpart SM Krishna in this regard. Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy has also spoke to Minister for Foreign Affairs SM Krishna.

Kollam Police Commissioner Gopesh Agrawal is already on the ship waiting for further orders.

The ship owners and crew are reportedly ready to cooperate, but waiting for final word from the Italian authorities.

As the issue has taken a diplomatic turn, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be consulted and advice of Ministry of External Affairs will also be taken in this regard.

Sources in the External Affairs Ministry said that the police have been asked to prepare for detention of the Italian ship crew. The Police Chief has been asked to take the help of the Coastguard, the sources added.

Taking a strong stand on the incident, Kerala Chief Minister Oomen Chandy said, "The killing of fishermen is a cruel incident. We will not let it pass till justice is done. We will not allow the culprits to escape from legal proceedings."

The IG of internal security in Kerala S Anand Krishnan told CNN-IBN that exact location of where the firing took place is still unclear despite the MHA maintaining that the incident did take place in Indian waters.

"There is a problem about the jurisdiction. But we have registered a case under Indian penal code. Their authorities are claiming that the case should be pursued under international law. The exact spot is yet to be established through technical corroboration. Will wait for diplomatic correspondence," said Krishnan.

However, Home Secretary RK Singh said, "The law is very clear. The vessel, in which the fishermen were travelling, was an Indian vessel; therefore action will be taken as per Indian law."

On Friday, the Home Ministry had given orders to the Kerala Police to arrest the armed guards on the ship.

Sources say that the Italian crew insists that India cannot take any action against them as they were in international waters, when the incident took place.

Commenting on the incident, Minister for Shipping GK Vasan said, "It is internationally well known fact that whenever pirates attack there is a proper protocol to tackle it. The protocol was not followed by the Italian ship. There was a delay made by the crew in contacting the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC)."

The Indian authorities say there is nothing to suggest that the fishermen were in the wrong. In fact it appears the ship was reckless in opening fire. It used excessive force and violated standard anti-piracy protocols; a case of murder has now been filed against the six armed guards.

Regional Commander of Coast Guard Region said, "If it (pirate attack) happens or likely to happen they are supposed to report to the concerned agency. No report has been received by the HQ. They should have reported about the pirate attack."

First Published: February 18, 2012, 8:30 PM IST
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