Italians held over fishermen shootings

2012-02-20 15:03

Thiruvananthapuram - Two Italian soldiers were due before a magistrate in India on Monday for allegedly shooting dead two Indian fishermen mistaken for pirates trying to attack an oil tanker.

The Italians, who were deployed on the ship to protect against the growing threat from pirates in the Indian Ocean, were escorted off the vessel in the southern port of Cochin and arrested on Sunday evening.

"Their arrest has been recorded and detailed investigations are going on," P Chandrashekharan, additional director general of police, said, adding the two had been charged with murder.

The Italian foreign ministry said the men had immunity from Indian law as the Enrica Lexie was under the Italian flag as it sailed past the coast of Kerala from Singapore to Egypt when the shooting occurred on Wednesday.

"The Italian government believes that it is the Italian judiciary that is competent, given that the acts that happened in international waters on board a ship flying the Italian flag," the ministry said on Sunday.


Italian officials have said the Indian fishing boat behaved aggressively and was repeatedly warned by officers on board the ship before guards opened fire.

But India has protested against the deaths of the unarmed men and said that the Italian soldiers must face justice in local courts.

Ships are increasingly employing armed guards for protection off the coast of Somalia and further afield as vessels of all sizes have been seized by pirates who often secure huge ransoms for the crews' safe release.

Various media reports have said the fishing boat, which had 11 men on board, was between 22 and 65km off the coast when it was fired on by the 58 000 ton tanker.

On Saturday, Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna told his Italian counterpart in a telephone conservation that the fishermen posed no threat to any ship.

  • louis.b.ebersohn - 2012-02-21 06:20

    Keeping a fair eye on these developments. Unfortunately expecting to see more similar cases in the media.

  • Garth - 2012-02-21 07:08

    In this day and age, in those seas - pretty stupid of the Indian fishermen. These Italians were doing what they were being paid for - to protect the ship. They should be released and given bonuses, not arrested and tried like criminals. Because they have sent a message to the thieving criminals: `We are scared; we will react to your presence in our proximity and treat it as extreme provocation; we will shoot you.' Maybe then the murderous pirates will cease their preying on the helpless. But, because they are Italians(Europeans), who killed the poor, starving, downtrodden Asian men, they must feel the full force of the apologetic European courts.

  • noel.scherman1 - 2012-03-01 21:38

    Don't know the full story, but with piracy rife around the world, this kind of tragic mistake will in all likelihood be repeated. Who dose one blame? The shipping lines are very afraid of piracy, for good reason, but this is not a reason to shoot indiscriminately. Tragic indeed!

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