Italians’ police custody extended, Rome sticks to version (Roundup)

February 23rd, 2012 - 9:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi/New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) A Kerala court Thursday extended by oen week the police custody of two Italian Marines arrested for the killing of two Indian fishermen even as Italy maintained that the deaths took place in international waters and the Marines should not be tried in India.

Italy’s Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura meanwhile voiced appreciation at the way the two Marines were being treated, but there was no end to the unprecedented diplomatic row between Rome and Delhi.

A court in Kollam extended the police custody of Marines Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone after police told the judge they needed more time to interrogate them.

Their three-day police custody expired Thursday. The next hearing will be Feb 28.

With the Italians agreeing to cooperate with the investigation, they are likely to be taken Friday to the cargo vessel Enrica Lexie, from where the Marines fired at the fishermen Feb 15 mistaking them to be pirates.

The weapon used in the shooting of Ajesh Binki and Gelastine is likely to be seized by police.

“We have expressed our appreciation in the manner in which they (Marines) have been treated,” de Mistura told reporters in Kochi after meeting Chief Minister Oommen Chandy in Kottayam.

A day earlier, he met Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur in New Delhi in a bid to defuse the row.

But the minister added that once the Italian vessel, now berthed in Kochi, was inspected, “our version will be proved right”.

New Delhi has said that since the incident involved an attack on an Indian vessel, the accused should be tried under Indian law.

A petition was filed in the Kerala High Court on behalf of two Marines Wednesday seeking quashing of the murder charges filed against them in the trial court.

Appearing for the Italians in the high court, laywer Sunil Dutt told the judge that the incident took place in international waters and so the two men could only be tried in an international court.

The counsel told the court — and the judge agreed — that Italian officials should be present if the Marines were interrogated on board the ship.

The director general of prosecution T. Asaf Ali told the court that the weapon used for committing the crime was yet to be recovered from the ship.

He said their police custody should be extended as more investigation had to be carried out.

The court asked notices to be served on the central and state governments.

Meanwhile, the two sisters of the 25-year-old fisherman Ajesh Binki filed a petition in the high court demanding Rs.2 crore (around $400,000) as compensation.

The court asked the ship owner to increase the bank guarantee from Rs.2.5 million to Rs.5 million.

Gelastine’s wife has filed a petition demanding a compensation of Rs.1 crore.

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