Italian Marines protest in prison

via PNS | Thiruvananthapuram published on March 7, 2012

The two Italian Marines, accused of shooting to death two Indian fishermen from aboard an Italian oil tanker, created tense scenes at the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram on Monday night by refusing to enter their cell after they were brought there as per the order of a Kollam court which remanded them in judicial custody till March 19.

During the seven-hour protest, the Marines reportedly persisted in their demand that they be put up in some facility outside the prison. The protest ended only after the police and the jail authorities convinced them that they would be put there forcibly. The reason the Marines cited for their refusal to stay in the prison cell was lack of security and facilities.

On Tuesday, the Italian authorities wrote to the Kerala Government requesting transfer of the Marines to a facility outside the prison. Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura is likely to meet Chief Minister Oommen Chandy regarding this. Sources said that the Government was likely to grant the request.

Marines Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, arrested on February 19 on murder charge for shooting to death two Indian fishermen from aboard Italian ship Enrica Lexie off the Kerala coast on February 15, were brought to the Thiruvananthapuram prison by about 7.30 pm Monday after the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court, Kollam, extended their remand by 14 days.

However, after reaching the prison from Kollam, the Marines protested saying that they could not stay in the cell and that they wanted to be shifted to the Police Club in Kollam or a guest house in Kochi. But the prison authorities refused to give in saying that they had to comply with the court order.

Sources said that the tension grew after a ten-member team of Italian officials reached the jail premises as the protest was going on and declared support for the demand of the Marines. The drama went on for over seven hours in the room adjoining the office of the superintendent of the prison.

It is said that the Marines and their supporters were not ready to agree with the argument of the Prisons ADGP that the duo could be transferred to an outside facility only after the Government issued an order defining it as prison. He also said that there were several formalities for this and that it was a time-consuming affair.

The standoff ended at about 2.30 am Tuesday. The Marines agreed to enter the cell after the jail authorities warned them that they would have to use force. The court had said that the Prisons ADGP could take a decision on shifting them to an outside facility in consultation with the Government but with its permission.

The court had first remanded Marines Massimiliano and Girone for 14 days on February 20 but the Kerala Police had got them in their custody in the name of questioning and put them in a guest house of the CISF on Willingdon Island in Kochi first and at the Police Club in Kollam later.

The Marines were presently lodged at the prison cell where former Kerala minister R Balakrishnan Pillai was lodged earlier after the Supreme Court sentenced him for one-year imprisonment in a corruption case. The Kollam court had on Monday ordered that the Marines should be given Italian food instead of the normal prison food.

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