Fishermen-killing equivalent to terror act: HC

published on March 25, 2012

The Kerala High Court on Friday observed that the February 15 incident of shooting two Indian fishermen to death from aboard an Italian ship off the Kerala coast was equivalent to a terror act even as the Union and Kerala governments adopted diametrically opposite stands on the question of releasing the Italian vessel involved in the incident from Kochi.

During arguments on a petition filed by Naples-based Dolphin Tanker Srl, owners of Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie from aboard which the two Indian fishermen were shot to death allegedly by two Italian Marines, Justice PS Gopinathan orally observed that the act was committed without issuing any warning and without provocation, as per the investigation report.

The judge pointed out that such an attack could be considered only as an as a terrorist act. The Kerala Police had arrested two Italian Marines on board the ship, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, on February 19 accusing them of shooting the fishermen to death. The Marines are presently in judicial custody in a Thiruvananthapuram jail.

Meanwhile, the Central and State Governments took opposite positions on the issue of releasing Enrica Lexie, presently berthed outside the Kochi port under police guard. While the Centre said it had no objections to releasing the vessel as its investigations were over, the State Government opposed this. The opposite views were openly aired in the court.

The Advocate General opposed the Centre’s position saying that the ship could not be released now as the investigations were yet to be completed. He said that the forensic examinations of the guns seized from the ship were in progress and that whether these were the weapons involved in the killing of the fishermen could be confirmed only after the tests were over.

The ballistic and other examinations of the weapons seized from the ship were presently being carried out at the Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram and the ship, detained in Kochi since February 17, could not be released before the test report was submitted, the State Government said. The High Court will consider the petition again on March 27.

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