Italians pay Rs.1.7mn in damages, boat owner drops case

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The owner of a damaged fishing boat, on which two Indian fishermen were shot dead allegedly by two Italian Marines from a cargo vessel in February, withdrew his complaint on Friday after he was paid compensation of Rs.1.7 million ($32,000) by Italian authorities.

Italian authorities earlier on Tuesday handed over two demand drafts of Rs.1 crore each to the Lok Adalat as compensation to families of the two fishermen, following an out of court settlement with them.

J. Freddy, owner of the fishing boat St. Antony, had on Thursday filed an application in the Kerala High Court for permission to transfer this case to the Lok Adalat so that he could settle the case out of court, and this was allowed by the high court on Friday.

In his petition filed soon after the February 15 shooting incident, Freddy had demanded that the Italian vessel Enrica Lexie should not be allowed to leave the Kochi waters unless he was compensated.

Since the past few days, Italian authorities were in touch with Freddy's counsel for paying compensation for his damaged boat. Both sides on Friday appeared before the Lok Adalat, and Freddy collected the compensation of Rs.1.7 million and signed documents that he would not pursue the case.

Earlier, the high court bench slammed Freddy and families of the killed fishermen for going back on their original petition, and said once money changed hands everyone changed their stance and this does not augur well in criminal cases.

Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were apparently mistaken as pirates and shot dead by Italian Marines from aboard the cargo vessel Enrica Lexie on February 15, off Alappuzha. Freddy was on board his fishing boat when the shooting took place.

The Marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, were picked up from the vessel and sent by a court in Kollam to jail on February 20 on murder charges. They are now lodged in the central prison in Thiruvananthapuram.

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