Italian officials are lying, says boat owner

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The owner of the ill-fated boat St Anthony, which came under fire from the crew of an Italian ship and led to two fishermen being killed, said on Friday the Italian defence that they had been attacked first was untrue.

"The reports that appeared that we did something wrong is baseless. We were not armedm and why should we be so because the only job we know is fishing?" Freddy, who was on board the boat at the time of the firing Wednesday evening, told reporters.

The incident that killed two fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, from Tamil Nadu and Gelastine, 45, from Kerala, who were mistaken for pirates, took place Wednesday evening about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha.

According to officials attached to the Italian Embassy in New Delhi, navy personnel on board the Enrica Lexie fired warning shots after they were allegedly attacked in international waters by people on an Indian fishing vessel.

But Freddy said nothing of the sort had happened. Recounting events, Freddy said there were nine people in the boat.

"We all had food. Since I felt sleepy, I asked Gelastine to take over the steering. Maybe after 10 minutes I heard sounds similar to that of a gunshot. When I opened my eyes, Gelastine was in a pool of blood near me.

"I shouted and soon the others also woke up. And when I looked up, I could see the Italian ship. By then many more shots were fired." In one of the shots, Ajesh was killed.

He also pointed out that Indian authorities should take a tough stand and not allow the law breakers to go scot free.

"We did no wrong. Italian officials are lying about what happened that day. They should be taken to task and authorities should immediately seize the ship.

"Those responsible for the shooting should be arrested. The ship should be released only after adequate compensation is provided to the victims," said Freddy.

The last rites of both fishermen took place in their villages with large crowds in attendance.

At Kochi, Italian consul general Giam Paolo Cutillo met Kochi Police commissioner M.R. Ajithkumar. Cutillo said later that the Italian government was cooperating fully with Indian authorities.

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