TRIVANDRUM — Ending the five-day uncertainty, the Kerala police on Sunday took two Italian naval officers into custody over the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Cochin coast on February 15.
The two, who allegedly shot dead the fishermen, were brought to the shore by a high-level police team led by Cochin city police commissioner M R Ajith Kumar around 4.30pm and immediately taken to the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guesthouse in the city for questioning.
The questioning is being done by Quilon city police commissioner Sam Christy Daniel. The two will be later taken to Neendakara in Quilon, where a case of murder has been registered in connection with the incident. Sources said the two will be presented before the court on Monday. The two marksmen, who were among six Italian naval officers guarding the merchant ship, Enrica Lexie, were arrested after the Kerala police recorded the statement of the ship’s captain and six other members of the crew. The police also inspected the ship and gathered the relevant records required for supporting the case. The process lasted about eight hours.
Italian Consul General Giampaolo Cutillo and Ernakulam range Inspector General of Police K Padmakumar were also present on the occasion. Padmakumar said that the crew of Enrica Lexie had fully cooperated with the police.
He said that the authorities had not taken any decision about releasing the ship, which is now docked in the Cochin port. Source said that it may have to wait till a decision is taken on the compensation to be given to the kin of the deceased.
The Italian authorities had tried their level best to avert the arrest of their naval officers. An Italian delegation comprising senior officials of the Legal and Foreign ministries held extensive discussions in this regard with Indian authorities in New Delhi. However, the Indian side insisted that the Italians will have to abide by the Indian laws. The Italians questioned the legality of the Indian action saying that the incident had taken place in the international waters and they reportedly suggested a joint probe.
MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said both the sides had a “fairly comprehensive” talks and the Indian authorities had explained to them the rationale of the country’s position as it existed today. Reports said that the team will also come to Kerala for legal consultations. Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna said in Bangalore on Sunday that his Italian counterpart was also in touch with Kerala Chief Minister Chandy.