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Kerala cops search Italian tanker

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 26.02.12
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Thiruvananthapuram, Feb. 25: Kerala police today searched for weapons on the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie whose security personnel shot dead two Indian fishermen 10 days ago thinking they were sea pirates.

Police sources said the team had found some arms and documents and would forward these to a forensic laboratory for tests.

The search continued late into the evening. The sources declined to say how many firearms had been seized.

Although the operation was conducted in the presence of officials from Italy, Kochi police commissioner M.R. Ajith Kumar had made it clear yesterday that the presence of the Italian team would not mean this was a joint investigation.

A magistrate’s court in Kollam district had earlier allowed Italy’s plea for its officials to be present during the search.

According to preliminary reports, Kumar and Kollam police commissioner Debesh Kumar Behera were part of the team that searched the vessel docked at the Kochi oil terminal. Forensic and ballistic experts were also part of the team that began the search at 11am.

A 10-member Italian team, that had ballistic experts Febus Luca and Major Fratini Paolo, boarded the ship a little later.

A division bench of Kerala High Court yesterday had restrained the vessel from leaving Kochi till Monday. The order came on a plea by Dora, the wife of one of the slain fishermen Valentine Jelestine.

Dora had challenged the order of a single-judge bench permitting the vessel’s release if the owners furnished a bank guarantee of Rs 25 lakh.

The Italian Marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were arrested for the February 15 shooting that killed Jelestine, 45, and Ajesh Binki, 25, who were part of an 11-member team of fishermen in a wooden boat. The Italians claimed that they had shot in the direction of the fishermen, suspecting them to be pirates, beyond India’s sea limits.

A case of murder has been registered against the Marines.