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Friday, December 14, 2012

Italy summons Indian ambassador ~ wants Indian Supreme Court to decide Lexie case before Christmas

When it commenced it voyage, sure none would have ever dreamt of the quagmire that the vessel was to encounter…. It was the tanker MV Enrica Lexie  on voyage from Singapore to Egypt with a crew of 34 including 19 Indians ~ it had somebody special – the six Italian marines from the San Marco Regiment guarding the vessel.

It entered to its way of notoriety when the Marines fired at a fishing trawler named St. Antony that  had left Neendakara in Keralawith a crew of 11 to fish for tuna.  On that fateful day of 15th Feb 2012,  the shooting and killing of Indian fishermen occurred closer to shores of Kerala and soon there were different versions on the incident and the place of occurrence.    The captain of the Enrica Lexie and the Italian marines claimed that  a boat of armed pirates approached the ship and the marines fired warning shots at them as they anticipated that the pirates would try and board the ship.  It was sad death for Ajesh Pink and Valentine aka Gelastine, natives of Tamil Nadu and Kerala respectively,  shot dead by Italian marines of the Reggimento San Marco, Marina Militare.

The incident sparked a major diplomatic row between Italy and India, with Indian police immediately opening a murder enquiry and later arresting two members of the Italian Navy security team over the shooting. On February 19 the two marines were sent to police custody till February 23. Thereafter they were remanded to judicial custody for the next 11 days till March 5 after which they were transferred to the Central Prison at Thiruvananthapuram.

On 16 February, the Italian ambassador in Delhi, Giacomo Sanfelice di Montefor, was summoned to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs and an official protest at the incident was lodged.  Italians did adopt diplomatic pressure in securing the release of the Marines and there were reports of financial settlement trying to close the issue, though there were broader issues involved in the killing, which according to Indian authorities occurred much closer to the shore and well within the jurisdiction of Indian waters.

On 2 June 2012, the two Italian marines were released after 105 days in judicial custody under strict bail conditions and assurances from the Italian Government that they will remain in India. The bail conditions set by the Kerala High Court including a bond of Rs. 1 crore each with two Indian solvent sureties for a like amount. The marines have to stay within a 10 km radius of the Kochi Police Commissioner's office and appear before the Commissioner on all days between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and as and when required.  During the period, there were reports quoting Vatican-based Catholic news agency Agenzia Fides, that  the newly consecrated Cardinal of the Catholic Church from Kerala, has called for a "peaceful solution" to the issue.

Italy tried to spill that out elsewhere too.  In the Formula 1 racing held  in Oct 2012 at Budhh International Circuit at Noida, Italian car manufacturer Ferrari adornedit's Formula One race-cars with the insignia of Italian flag.  Using the sports event to promote a cause was criticized as not a sporting gesture; still Ferrari  carried the flag of the Italian Navy on the cars driven by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, paying tribute to Italian Marines and stating  that the Indian and Italian authorities will soon find a solution to the situation currently involving two sailors from the Italian Navy. India's motor racing federation decided not to raise any objection to Ferrari racing with the Navy sticker after receiving assurances that the gesture was not political.

Today [14th Dec 2012] there is news that Italy has summoned India’s ambassador to insist that India’s Supreme Court issue a decision soon concerning two Italian marines detained since February for the deaths of two Indian fishermen mistaken for pirates. In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry said it was “profoundly bewildered” why the Supreme Court of India hasn’t ruled even though arguments ended three months ago. It asked for a decision before Christmas.

Italy states that the dispute has strained diplomatic relations and  maintains the shooting occurred in international waters and that as a result, Rome should have jurisdiction. India claims the ship was in Indian territorial waters. The Supreme Court of India is to decide on Italy’s petition to try the sailors at home

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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