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India, Italy stick to their stand; Kerala to press for prosecution

New Delhi/Kochi: India and Italy today stuck to their stand as they tried to defuse the escalating diplomatic row over the killing of two Indian fishermen while Kerala government said it will press for prosecution of the two Italian naval marines involved.

Mounting a diplomatic offensive, Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura rushed to Delhi this morning and met his Indian counterpart Preneet Kaur but the two sides apparently made no headway in resolving the row.

India made it clear that the issue would be handled according to the law of the land and said the "very fair and free judiciary" will take the right decision.

"As far as the law point is concerned, they have their interpretations and we have our interpretations...So as far as we are concerned in India, we certainly will go by our law," Kaur told reporters.

 India, Italy stick to their stand; Kerala to press for prosecution

Members of the navy security team of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie, Salvatore Girone (L) and Latorre Massimiliano, who were involved in the killing of two Indian fishermen, at a government guest house in Kochi on Wednesday. PTI

Putting forward Italy's position, Mistura maintained that the incident took place in "international waters".

"This tragic incident needs to be analysed properly and we can continue having a proper dialogue about finding a solution to it," he told reporters after the hour-long meeting. At the same time, he said the ties between the two countries are "very important for all of us".

In Thiruvananthapuram, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the government would go ahead with prosecution of the two Italians, saying 'it is the right and power of the state'.

Questioning the jurisdiction of Indian courts and police, Italian government and the two marines of the oil tanker moved the Kerala High Court seeking quashing of the FIR charging the naval guards with murder of the two fishermen in firing from the ship off the state coast on 15 February.

The petition was filed by Italian Consul General in Mumbai Gian Paolo Cutillo and the two accused — Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, filed the petition seeking to quash the FIR registered by the Kollam police in Kerala.

In a related development, the court admitted a petition by the family of one of the deceased fishermen seeking Rs one crore compensation and directed the owners of Italian vessel Enrica Lexie to furnish a bank guarantee of Rs 25 lakh.

The court directed the port authorities to ensure that the ship is detained in the port till the bank guarantee was furnished.

"As far as the law point is concerned, they have their interpretations and we have our interpretations. As of today, the two people (Italian Marines arrested) are on Indian soil and tomorrow the Indian court is going to decide what steps are to be taken further," Kaur said.

"So as far as we are concerned in India, we certainly will go by our law," she said.

Mistura said there was an agreement on three points, but Kaur denied having reached any understanding. "The only agreement is that the law will take its own course," she said.

Expressing regret over the incident, he said: "We do acknowledge that two Indian citizens died. No one doubts it and we are terribly sad. The second one is that the incident took place in international waters and at the same time the investigations will assert the exact position."

"We all want truth. The truth will help us in (finding) proper way of handling the issue," he said and added that he would go to Kerala this evening.

Mistura said ties between India and Italy were "very important for all of us" and that the "tragic incident" needs to be analysed properly.

Kerala Chief Minister Chandy said, "The two Italians have been booked under Section 302 of IPC and government's stand is it will proceed with the investigation. It is the right and power of the state. The Centre has extended full support to Kerala's position."

Italy had on Monday said that there were "currently considerable differences of a legal character" on the issue of the arrest of the two Italian soldiers, who opened fire at fishermen mistaking them to be pirates off Kochi coast.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi is also slated to visit India next Tuesday.

PTI

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Updated Date: Feb 22, 2012 23:18:35 IST