Indian sailors on Lexie at sea

All eyes may now be on the Italian marines locked up in the Poojappura Central Prison for killing two fishermen.

But locked away from the eyes of the world are 19 Indian sailors on board the vessel Enrica Lexie, anchored off Kochi for the last 70 days.

The captain of the ship, Umberto Vitelli, who helped the state police get clinching evidence of the firing, has sent emails to the vessel owners, explaining the mental agony his crew is facing.

According to sources close to the vessel owners, the 70 days at two nautical miles from the coast had affected their routine life.

As days pass, the woes of the crew also worsen. Sources said many of the crew are sick and most of them are depressed The crew’s complaints are that the government could have interfered in the matter and ‘saved’ the Indians on board the vessel in the first week of March itself after the vessel was seized on February 15.

The police had seized the weapons and had got all evidence for the investigation by March 15. Yet, “nothing was done so far” to get them released.

Both the state and the central governments, they say, have not taken any step to ensure the safety of the Indian sailors.

Kochi city police commissioner M R Ajithkumar said the delay in handing over the weapons had been the reason for the long stay.

"So far, they haven’t filed any application for the release of the Indian crew," he said, adding if the vessel owners filed such an application, "we will consider the matter and decide accordingly”.

"Chief minister Oommen Chandy had, from the very first day, asked the police to take care of the Indian crew on board the vessel and so the crew could not make such claims," he said.

Ajithkumar said the state police were also suffering a lot by the vessel case as four of its officers were deployed in the vessel in connection with the detention.

“The police force is taking care of the four cops deployed there and food is being delivered to them,” he
said.

In between, attempts made by the ship’s owner to sail out of Kochi port failed due to the court's intervention.

The matter is now pending before the Supreme Court.

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