(Left) Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone
May 18: The Italian foreign ministry summoned India’s envoy in Rome on a day a court in Kerala turned down the bail pleas of two of its Marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen in February.
Kollam district and sessions judge P.D. Rajan rejected the plea of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone. He agreed with the prosecution’s contention that they may not be available for trial if they got bail now. The court also ordered that the trial be started without delay.
The chargesheet, submitted yesterday, has accused the Marines of murder.
The Marines and Italian officials have maintained that the incident happened in international waters and so the case must not be tried in an Indian court.
In Rome, Indian envoy Debabrata Saha met the director general of the Italian foreign ministry. “The concerns of the Italian government on the charges filed against the Marines… were conveyed to him,” said a source in the ministry of external affairs in Delhi. Saha assured the Italian officials he would communicate their concerns to Delhi.
In a TV interview telecast today, Italy’s deputy foreign minister Staffan de Mistura told a TV channel that his government disagreed that the two Marines should be tried for murder. He said it was a case of accidental killing because the Marines mistook the fishermen for pirates.
Mistura said the Enrica Lexie was in international waters when the incident happened. “Perceiving that there could have been an attempt of attack by pirates because in that area there had been six attacks… there was a legitimate reason why they (the Marines) felt there could have been an attack,” he said.
Mistura said the Marines saw a little vessel, a fisherman’s boat, coming towards them, and not changing the route. They sent some signals, he said, and fired warning shots in the water. He said, unfortunately, some of those shots went in the wrong direction.
A murder case against the Marines was out of the question, he added. “Accidental, unwanted killing due to an unfortunate incident (is) possible, but that is totally a different picture,” he said.
“Having said that, since we respect the judiciary system of India, we had at least expected (the authorities) to recognise the fact that this cannot be considered murder. In the worst of scenarios, (it is) an accidental killing due to an unfortunate incident. Everyone regrets it,” he said.
The minister, who has made several trips to India in the last couple of months for the case, said the money his government gave to the families of the two fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, was on humanitarian grounds.
“I myself went to see the families,” he said.
“Regardless of the outcome of that unfortunate incident, we felt that these are the poor fishermen who went out fishing every day. Unfortunately they had taken a wrong direction on that day…. That was a purely humanitarian donation and we have recognised no penal connection. We do recognise that these two things should not be connected,” he said.