Bid to meet them fails twice

Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura has said that he is sad at not being able to meet the kin of Valentine who was killed when his fishing boat was fired upon by Italian marines aboard the vessel Enrica Lexie on February 15.

Talking to presspersons here on Sunday at the hotel where he was staying, Mr. De Mistura said one of the purposes of his Kollam visit on Saturday was to meet Valentine's kin on behalf of the Italian people and express their sorrow.

Mr. De Mistura made two attempts to meet the family but both did not work out. His first attempt to go to Valentine's house on Saturday failed when the police refused to provide security on the grounds that the visit was informal. Another attempt was made to meet the family on Sunday through the mediation of the Kollam diocese. That too failed when the church withdrew from the attempt after rumours began to fly that the diocese was attempting a settlement between Valentine's kin and the Italian government. The church had earlier arranged a meeting at Infant Jesus Cathedral, Tangasseri, after Sunday mass.

Mr. De Mistura said he did not even go to the church to attend mass in the wake of the rumours. The situation had become more tense in the coastal areas following the second tragedy at sea recently. “I understand the emotions,” he said.

He said that he had spent time on Sunday morning “praying for the family of Valentine and also for the two Italian marines” who had been arrested and were in police custody here on charges of murder in connection with the incident.

He said he had met the arrested marines on Saturday and conveyed to them that Italy continued to be with them. His country was satisfied with the manner in which the two marines were treated by the police here. “That's the way we too would have treated any serving military personnel from India had they been arrested in Italy for some reason,” he said.

He said the Italian government respected the Indian judiciary that was independent in all respects. The judges of all the courts before whom the issue had come up were weighing the pros and cons of both sides equally. Even the arrested marines were calm and waiting for the outcome as they had confidence in the Indian judicial system.

About the issue of jurisdiction over the case, he said the issue was an important element for Italy but he had confidence in the Indian judiciary when it came to deciding about it.

He said he would not like to comment on the police investigation into the case as it was being conducted by an agency of a different country.

Mr. De Mistura left for Delhi on Sunday afternoon.

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