Diplomatic row escalates between India, Italy

A Kollam court remanded two Italian Naval guards to judicial custody till March 5, but handed them over to police for investigators for three days.

Zeenews Bureau

Kollam (Kerala), /New Delhi: A city court on Monday remanded the two Italian Naval guards, charged with killing of two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast, to judicial custody till March 5, but handed them over to police for investigators for three days.

The two Italian marines, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, were produced before first class Judicial Magistrate KP Joy at his Karunagapally residence in Kollam district amid tight security. They could not be produced in a regular court as it was a holiday due to Mahashivratri festival.

The magistrate rejected the contention of the Italian naval guards that that they cannot be prosecuted under Indian law.

During the 90-minute proceedings, besides the investigators, lawyers of prosecution, the accused and an interpreter for the Italian guards were allowed inside.
Activists of Congress, CPI(M) staged a protest demanding maximum punishment to the two guards as they were brought to the magistrate`s residence.

The arrest of Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, yesterday, marked the climax of four days of hard negotiations between Indian and Italian sides. The marines were arrested by Kollam police from Kochi. The two have been charged with murder under Section 302 of the IPC.

The arrested men, who are part of the six-member security detail of the ship Enrica Lexie from Italian Navy, were taken to a CISF guest house at nearby Wellington Island for detailed interrogation. A Coast Guard vessel was keeping a watch on the Italian vessel, sources said.

A diplomatic row has erupted between India and Italy over the incident which occurred last Wednesday. The Italian crew claimed the fishermen were shot at on suspicions of being pirates.

At the diplomatic level, India hoped that Italy will cooperate in ensuring that law of the land takes its course after their team of officials from the Legal and Foreign ministries held a meeting with senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi meanwhile said there were "considerable differences" with India over the killing of the fishermen mistaken for pirates by the marines onboard the cargo vessel `Enrica Lexie` on Wednesday.

"There are currently considerable differences of a legal character. Up to now I have not seen the co-operation between India and Italy that would be desirable and would allow a quick resolution," Terzi was quoted as having said in Rome.

Italy has said the two marines have immunity from Indian law as the merchant vessel was flying with an Italian flag in international waters as it sailed from Singapore to Egypt when the firing incident occured on Wednesday. India has maintained that the accused must face justice in local courts.

The two fishermen, one from Kerala and the other from Tamil Nadu, were allegedly shot dead on Wednesday by the Italian crew who mistook them for pirates in an incident that took place in the Arabian Sea.