Sea killing: Diplomacy delays arrests

Action against the Italian ship and arrest of its six guards who shot dead two fishermen in the sea off the Kollam coast this week are delayed amid a diplomatic deadlock over the matter between India and Italy.

Four days after the incident, the Italian foreign minister, Mr Giulio Maria Terzi di Sant’Agata, rang up the external affairs minister S.M.Krishna on Saturday night.

The call came after prime minister Manmohan Singh had sought reports from the ministries of home and external Affairs.

Fishermen associations across the State were livid with rage over the delay in the arrest of the “murderers”. In Kochi, the captain and crew of the Italian oil tanker, Enrica Lexie, refused to cooperate with the local probe agencies, awaiting a formal nod from the Italian embassy.
Mr Sant’Agata spoke to Mr Krishna, conveying his deep regret at the loss of the lives.

But Mr Krishna told him that “the law should be allowed to take its course”. The crew should cooperate with Indian authorities. The fishermen were unarmed and carried only fishing gear, said Mr Krishna. PMO sources said National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon apprised the PM of the incident.

Meanwhile, the arrest of six crew members of Italian ship Enrica Lexie got further delayed and police sources in Kochi said a top official from the Centre would be deputed on Sunday for taking evidence from the crew.

A team of the Italian navy, which included senior officials, Mr Alexandro Pereli, Mr Jean Paul Pereni and Mr Francisco Marino, flew down to Kochi and met the city police commissioner, Mr M R Ajith Kumar.

The Italian authorities continue to maintain that the firing was due to “pirate attack outside the Indian territorial waters”. Sources added that the ship owner and the captain had reportedly agreed to co-operate with the probe by the local police which was for charging the crew with murder.

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