ibnlive » South » Kerala

Feb 17, 2012 at 05:47pm IST

Fishermen deaths: AK Antony chooses to stay silent

Kochi: Defence Minister AK Antony said on Friday that investigations were on in the Kochi firing incident where guards on an Italian ship fired at and killed two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kochi. "They are questioning all the people involved." He, however, refused to give more details.

"Giving more details is not appropriate. We take this issue very seriously, What happened was against the law, against all norms. The guilty will have to be punished," the Defence Minister said.

ALSO SEE Firing by Italian crew error of judgement: Coast Guard

Meanwhile, Kochi Police Commissioner R Ajit Kumar said, "We are going to give a formal request to the master of the ship that he should come to the shore with the accused crew members to aid the investigation.

"Italian officials and the crew are cooperating with us. The only hurdle is the legal issues. There are contradictions in what the fishermen and the ship are saying. The matter has to be investigated," he said.

The Italian Consul General, Giampaolo Cutillo, meanwhile met Kumar on Friday over the incident.

Kerala Police on Friday detained several members of the Enrica Lexie crew.

"Vital information is yet to be collected from the ship. Six security guards on the ship are considered to be from the Italian Navy as per the information they have. These crew members will be arrested and produced in the court only after all procedures are completed," said police sources.

Meanwhile, Coast Guard IG SPS Batra revealed on Friday that there was no provocation from the fishermen's side.

"There was no provocation from the fishermen's side. The police are investigating the matter. The firing on fishermen was not correct. Our waters are not piracy infested. The vessel told us about it being involved in the killing of fishermen very late. The police are investigating the matter," he said.

However, he did seem to admit that the firing could have been an error of judgement. "There was an error of judgement on the part of the ship. My work as the Coast Guard was to find the ship and bring it in which we did. Now the law will take its course."

Enrica Lexie was brought to Kochi early on Friday. It is berthed at Kochi oil terminal, where security has been tightened.

The preliminary assessment of the marine authorities was that armed guards aboard the ship might have fired at the fishing boat on Wednesday mistaking it for a vessel of pirates.

The coastal police registered a murder case against the crew of the vessel based on the evidence of bullet injuries found on the bodies of the dead fishermen - Valentine alias Jelestine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25) - during post-mortem.

Fellow fishermen who were in the same boat as Binki and Jalastine, said the boat had 11 fishermen. They had put out to sea from Neendakara in Kollam district.

The Kerala government had announced a solatium of Rs 5 lakh each to the families of the deceased fishermen. It was also decided to bear all legal expenses for getting due compensation from the owners of the ship.

The Kollam administration also announced an emergency relief payment of Rs 10,000 each to the kin of those killed.

Meanwhile, fishermen's organisations have threatened to lay siege the ship at Kochi harbour demanding penal action against the ship crew.

With additional information from PTI

Previous Comments