Prosecution raises murder charge

Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, the two Italian marines of the San Marco Battalion on security duty on board the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie, were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days (till March 5, 2012) by Karunagapally Judicial First Class Magistrate K.P. Joy on Monday after the prosecution charged them with killing two Indian fishermen off the Ambalappuzha coast last Wednesday, under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code.

When the magistrate ordered that they be sent to the Central Prison in Thiruvananthapuram, prosecutor K. Anil Kumar made a plea that the two be sent to police custody for three days for investigation. The magistrate then ordered that they be sent to police custody till February 23.

Monday being a holiday on account of Sivaratri, they were brought to the magistrate's house with heavy police escort, led by Superintendent of Police Sam Christy Daniel, at 5 p.m. and the remand procedures were over in 90 minutes. The marines were represented by advocate B. Raman Pillai and advocate practising in the Supreme Court Sunil Dutt. Director of the Bible Apostolate of the Kollam diocese of the Catholic Church Fr. Rolden Jacob was brought to the magistrate's house for translation in case the marines wished to say anything to the magistrate. But they did not make any statement.

Defence argument

The defence side argued that the firing had taken place 33 nautical miles off the Kerala coast, much beyond the contiguous zone, and hence Indian courts had no territorial jurisdiction over the case. To this, the prosecutor countered that the incident had taken place just 22.5 nautical miles off the Kerala coast and that the contiguous zone jurisdiction of the country extended up to 24 nautical miles.

The court accepted the contention of the prosecution and passed the remand orders. In case the police need an extension of custody, they can move the court for it. Though the Kollam Chief Judicial Magistrate Court has jurisdiction over the case, the marines were produced before the Karunagapally court as the Kollam magistrate was on leave.

Tension erupted in the vicinity of the magistrate's house when a large group of Youth Congress, All India Youth Federation, Democratic Youth Federation of India, and Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha activists tried to barge into the magistrate's house when the marines were brought there. The police used force to keep the demonstrators at bay. At least two of them were injured in the police action. Later when the marines were being taken away from the magistrate's house, a group of Youth Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party activists raised slogans in English condemning the act of the marines. The police dispersed them and took the marines away to Kochi. The captain of the ship Umberto Vitelli was also present.

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