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Updated: February 22, 2012 02:13 IST

Rome insists Kochi police action is “coercive and unilateral”

Vaiju Naravane
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Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi talks to the media at Rome's Foreign Ministry Office, on Monday. Italy today sent Staffan De Mistura, Foreign Ministry Under Secretary, to meet Indian officials over the issue of fishermen killing by two Italian Marines.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi talks to the media at Rome's Foreign Ministry Office, on Monday. Italy today sent Staffan De Mistura, Foreign Ministry Under Secretary, to meet Indian officials over the issue of fishermen killing by two Italian Marines.

Italian media cast doubts on Indian version of events

Once again qualifying the actions taken by local police forces in the arrest of two Italian naval personnel in Kochi as “coercive and unilateral,” Rome on Tuesday decided to send junior Foreign Minister Staffan De Mistura to India.

As the row over the two Indian fishermen shot dead by Italian naval personnel intensified, the Italian Foreign Ministry, the Farnesina, announced Minister Giulio Terzi would himself be travelling to India next Tuesday.

A communiqué issued by the Italian Foreign Ministry said that Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi had instructed Mr. De Mistura to “continue, at the political level, through contacts at a higher level, including with the State authorities in Kochi and the federal authorities in New Delhi, the action undertaken by experts from the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence and Justice.”

“As regards press reports on the coercive operations carried out by Indian police forces against the crew of the Italian ship, we confirm that these were unilateral acts, as we have already indicated in a communiqué published on 19 February,” the communiqué continued.

When contacted by The Hindu, the press office at the Farnesina ruled out any possibility of further clarifications either through the Foreign Ministry spokesperson or other senior officials.

“The Minister has expressed his views in the communiqué. The spokesperson will not add any other details at this moment. The Minister has also clarified the Italian position on the divergences on the positions of the two countries,” Filippo Manara of the Ministry’s press office told The Hindu.

The Indian Ambassador in Rome did not return calls.

Italy continues to be at pains to underline that the presence of armed naval personnel on board a merchant ship flying the Italian flag is ruled by a specific Italian law which is in keeping with U.N. resolutions regarding the fight against piracy at sea.

However, Italian media, including respected titles like Corriere Della Sera have taken a mystifyingly jingoistic position, casting doubts on the Indian version of events. Initially the media suggested that the Enerica Lexie may not have been the vessel sought by Indian authorities as there were “at least four other vessels in the vicinity at the time.”

Readers' comments too have been frankly anti-Indian. “Our soldiers cannot be tried by a third world country,” wrote one reader. Another used just one word to describe his or her frustration –"Indiani!!!" as if to say “what can be expected of Indians, after all.”

Italy's claim

Italy’s Defence Ministry continues to claim that the Indian fishing trawler was behaving “aggressively”. The Corriere della Sera has carried long extracts from the declarations made by one of the arrested Italians, Massimiliano Latorre, who claimed that the third time the fishing boat was fired at, it turned around and sped away and that there was no damage and no victims.

In an article based on details given by Defence Ministry sources journalist Fiorenza Sarzanini wrote that satellite images confirmed that the Italian tanker was in international waters at the time of the shooting. She also said that the Italian navy had ordered the two marines on board not to obey the order of the Indian authorities. “

In his report two days ago to the Carabinieri ROS special operations group and the Rome public prosecutor’s office, Massimiliano Latorre reconstructed the sequence of events off the Indian coast. The report names those who fired and denies that there could have been any casualties, far less victims. Latorre was in charge of the security unit on board the oil tanker Enrica Lexie to protect it from pirates and he is the author of the report, complete with photographs, which public prosecutor Francesco Scavo Lombardo will use to investigate the incident. Latorre and Salvatore Girone face charges of murdering two seamen on the St. Antony fishing vessel. The case file also contains statements from the five other service personnel on board and the conclusions of the unit’s leader,” Ms Sarzanani writes.

However, she says, the versions of the Indians and the Italians differ significantly, especially concerning the time of the incident, the precise position of the vessel at the time and the vessel that “attacked” the tanker. “Why did the Italians, who reported they were in international waters, nonetheless enter the Indian-controlled zone, enabling the arrest of the two marines? And why did they do so despite the objections of the Italian navy?” Ms. Sarzanini asks.

The difference in timings and locations in the version offered by the two governments could mean that the fishermen could have been killed in another incident altogether, the Corriere suggests. “Latorre enclosed three photographs with his report in an attempt to demonstrate precisely this inconsistency, claiming that the fishing boat is not the dead seamen’s vessel St. Antony. However, the poorly focused photographs are of little help in clearing this up. Neither do they clarify whether, as the marines maintain, that there were five armed men – not fishermen – on the boat,” the article says.

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Phrases like "Third World" countries are often used in a derogatory sense although they should carefully refer ONLY to the material/infrastructure development of a country (not to the mental/human evolution). In reality, Western cultures have had a far more violent past and present compared to the East -- Hitler, the decimation of the natives of Americas, Australia, S. Africa, etc., atomic bombing of Japan, Iraq, Vietnam, ...

To the West, "justice" means as applied only to their own citizens -- others are killed by their military without much thought. Would these guards have fired so indiscriminately if they were patrolling on Italian streets?

Hope India does true justice regardless. Jurisdiction should be India as the victims were Indian nationals and the guilty have surrendered to India (like US wants to try those who strike US citizens anywhere). Also, if fishing boat was on Indian side, then too crime scene was India

from:  Ashim Jain
Posted on: Feb 25, 2012 at 17:07 IST

Did anyone wonder that the pirates themselves must be having the last laugh. They must be watching this in the news and having a good laugh at the indians and the italians. They must be laughing away to glory to see two states getting into a diplomatic tango!

from:  Sumit Lanong
Posted on: Feb 24, 2012 at 12:48 IST

This issue is a case of murder which should be investigated by the
police via a scientific investigation. There is a conscious effort to
politicise it and gain mileage out of it. The Indian government should
ensure that there is a fair trial here in India.

from:  vivek abraham chaly
Posted on: Feb 24, 2012 at 09:04 IST

Though I am an indian, I am against to Govt action for few reasons:
1) Fishermen's boat should not have sailed closer to the Ship.
2) Our coast guard and police cheated the Italians saying we need to
take more details about the pirates and made them come to Kochi and
now boasting.
As per the first days breaking news. the ship was more than 25
nautical miles away from indian coast.
3) Why dont the police question the rest of fishermen to know the
reason why they sailed near the ship?
4) It is a lie that 9 out of 11 fishermen were sleeping when this
incident took place. If they were sleeping how did they knew their
friends were shot by the guards from the ship?
5) Those fishermen were out in the sea with fishing pole and it was
reported earlier.They might have mocked the Italians by pointing their
fishing pole at them as if those were guns. This might have made the
Italians think that pirates are approaching with weapons.

from:  RJCB
Posted on: Feb 24, 2012 at 00:15 IST

@KJ.As I have stated earlier, none of you guys know actually what happened on high seas. The fishing boat from India had no bearings to show that they are fishermen. I doubt any fishing boat or catamarans for that matter have any display of our country's identity whenever they leave for fishing. Can any body tell me of our country set up to monitor the small boats and fishing vessels. Sadly we dont have one in place till date. We cant support or defend blindly which has no authenticity and this where the courts will decide. Apart from the evidence of Indian Navy or Coast Guard if any, we have to remember that there will be counter evidence from erring Italian vessel as well International Maritime Organisation.

The Indian territorial waters is infested with pirates and its impossible for any navy or coast guard to monitor, such a vast area. There have been regular clashes in Andaman Seas between Indian & Burmese fishermen over territorial catch. The same applies to Indian & Sri Lankan fishermen. Everyday hundreds of Indian fishing boats cross or stray across the International waters. This puts themselves as well our country's stance on stake. Its necessary for the big vessels to employ armed guards to defend their lives.

We cant be arbitrary and adamant to say that Italian vessel was in Indian waters. Evidence matters be it Indian fishermen or Italian marines. The pirates infested Malacca Straits have features of that region. They operate on the same pattern of fishing boats of that region. Differentiating between pirates and fishermen is quite tricky and highseas add more woes. Instead of painting this incident with racism and putting ourselves in an inferior mode, I would say let's introspect.

from:  SKA
Posted on: Feb 23, 2012 at 05:58 IST

@ all those who contradict my statement...., I made very clear in my comment, it is my personal opinion! I would like to add, it is based on the facts and ONLY FACTS from the previous experiences! Let us wait for some more time, the facts of the case would be clear. The verdicts would be clear! Sadly, I still feel the end result would be... what I told above... Not that I don't believe in my Country's Government or my country's Judiciary! At the end of the day.. yes.. I still believe what I said.. please don't moderate my comment, let the whole world know, what a common Indian feels and the confidence he has on his Government and (sad to add) the judiciary. The judicial system will bank on the facts for trials, there won't be any facts left for trials! believe me!!

from:  Jaya Prakash
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 20:51 IST


At any situation, even during extreme war condition, once the other party is unarmed and willing to surrender there shouldnt be any assault. These are part of international law which Italian Marines should have learnt before killing someone in a different country!!

from:  KJ
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 18:11 IST

Countless mails have come to support the Indian government's stance on the arrest of Italian Marines. No doubt the unfortunate incident on high seas could be a mistake or misjudgment of the situation. But there are many questions which remains to be answered on Indian side here:

1. Does all the fishing boats have communication equipment or any registration from India, which can be monitored once they are away from the coast. Sadly this system dont exist in our country. Atleast the system of having a log on the fishing boats will make things go well in a long run.

2. The Indian Navy and Coast Guard should not boast about its ability, being there have been a breach of security in our territorial waters many times. Pirates from Somalia have been roaming freely in Lakshadweep, off Gujarat coast.
3. Pirates continue to dominate the Andaman Seas and maintain their bases in remote Indian Islands. Piracy have been an international problem now, where many countries are compelled to employ their respective navies.

4. Pirates who operate in the Indian Ocean and all over often use skiffs or fishing boats in guise. We dont need to make such hue and cry, since the Italian Marines have been arrested now.
5.People just sit and make comments, including media. Nobody understands the kind of stress and anxiety the crew of a vessel undergo, whenever they find such suspecting fishing boats on high seas. The fishing boats have more manoevurability and often cross the path of big ships in order to make more catch.

The fault on Indian side is bringing the Italian vessel under threat from International Waters. We have a dispute here, where India should provide full clarity. Just to gain sympathy and vote banks, dont blow this issue out of proportion. There is no evidence from Indian side to say that, Italian vessel was on Indian Territorial waters.

from:  SKA
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 15:51 IST

The action by italian guards was also "unilateral". They havent consulted any indian authorities before shooting those fishermen who have died.

from:  tejaswi
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 12:48 IST

Well nationalistic positions are unfashionable in the Indian media so their mystification at the behavior of the Italian media doesn't come as a surprise. It's probably best if they stayed off WaPo or the NYT then. Their systems might not be upto the shock.

from:  Prashant
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 12:29 IST

@Mr.Jaya Prakash, Your personal opinion is not correct. In the present
case, the Italians are in India's exclusive economic zone which comes
under Indian influence.Moreover, Indian vessels within India's exclusive
economic zone should be subjected to Indian law.Period. Had the Indians
killed Italian fisherman in Italy's exclusive zone, do you think the
Italian courts will behave in the same timid way as we are behaving ?

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 11:30 IST

Italian counterpart is trying to prove their diplomatic dominance, it is very unfortunate that war of words is key focus for both countries at cost of lives of fisherman. Both countries should display their humility and resolve the issue in rational manners.

from:  Shashi
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:57 IST

I strongly feel that the Indian stand is correct. Italy should explain why their action
cannot be construed as an act of war, irrespective of where the incident occurred. It
might be worthwhile to consider dialing down the diplomatic exchanges till Italy
agrees to co-operate. Unless this incident is taken seriously by India, we can expect
to be taken for granted by other nations. If Italy is not made accountable, who is
going to shoot at our fishermen next? Spain? And hey, why limit it to fishermen -
why not extend it to Indian tourists as well? Take responsibility for your actions,

from:  S. Chellappa
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:44 IST

@ Jaya...My confidence in the Indian judicial system relies upon the
court's judgement. AFAIK, the Italian marines committed a crime in the
Indian territory and I just hope they end up in Kochi Central Jail.

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:44 IST

@Mr.Jaya Prakash: If it happened in the sea the law of the sea will apply. OK, but law of the sea will not condone shooting at fishermen or any unarmed people in a small boat. I trust the courts to do the right thing if the investigation and full facts are presented before it. Any fudging usually happens in tamperign with evidence or witnesses, sloppy investigation etc. The relatives of the dead fishermen should come forward and tell their story.

from:  Kumar
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:31 IST

"However, Italian media, including respected titles like Corriere Della Sera have taken a mystifyingly jingoistic position, casting doubts on the Indian version of events."! Oh yes, how mysterious! Who ever heard of the like! Governments and newspapers taking a mindlessly nationalistic view of the situation! What on earth could they be thinking?

from:  Ashu
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:19 IST

Wow!!! That is indeed a new take on things. I think it would be fair to say that it is too much of a coincidence to have two fishing boats shot at on the same day at the same region, So since the Italians themselves say they shot at fishermen, I do not think much credence needs to placed in the "some other ship shot the fishermen" theory.
Also I would like to know how a person who can spot whether or not people on board the fishing vessel were injured(by three volleys of fire) can also miss that the fishermen were not carrying weapons.
Also what does it matter where the incident took place as long as it did not take place in Italy? Whose ever territorial waters the attack took place in, Indians have been killed and we have the right to expect the killers bought to justice.

from:  Akshay
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 10:00 IST

Rightly pointed out Jaya. I too am of the opinion that no one would be
brought to the books. Not that the the Government does not wants to; but
because this matter which started with 2 fishermen begin shot would
graduated to political parley between the two countries. The sheer
distance between two parties, backed by the media coverage would
ultimately bring the justification that the Italian would be release
from India only to be "tried" in Italy with some compensation paid to
the family of the victims. Thats it; justice disposed (read denied).

from:  Md Rehan
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 09:55 IST

I hope the Indian authorities are fair and show some spine regarding this issue. We have progessed far from the days when colonial powers made a mockery of the local laws of other countries. As to the comment about India being a "third-world country", I guess the person in question has still not recovered from bouts of long-term severe recession, so my sympathies with him/her.

from:  Divya
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 08:10 IST

People feel the pain when it happens to them. Remember the American student
Amanda Knox jailed for 4 years in a Italian prison and released free due to lack of
evidence. Italy just deterred off the US requests/influence to get the right legal
support. Now its the other way round and Italy wants things to be in its course. India
is definitely doing the right thing despite its 'developing' status in the world.

from:  rao thotakura
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 05:32 IST

Law should take its course. Looks like Marines were at fault.

from:  Tanveer Khan
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 05:24 IST

Oh so Italy does not think the case should be tried against their
soliders. Compare and contrast this with the case of children being
taken into custody by the norway authorities.In the latter they say
that the due legal course has to take place. As a practising
peditrician in USA I am surprised at the ridiculousness of the
inferences drawn. and highhandedness of the authorities. Now they do
not want the due legal process followed. This attitude of the european
nations towards India is arrogant to say the least. Vatican or not the
due legal process has to be followed.

from:  vishnu
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 04:05 IST

Time for Sonia to kick into action...Almost certainly the power of the
church, lack of support from the PMO and the Union cabinet, and the
ability to meekly surrender to the so-called "first world" country
(when in fact that country is nearly in a similar shape as Greece)
will mean that the poor fishermen get chucked into a corner.

from:  Sriram Krishnan
Posted on: Feb 22, 2012 at 02:40 IST

I am happy that The Hindu is noticing and publishing the way things
are getting presented in Italy. It seems that they have a 'we cannot
be held responsible by you', position. We must remove the prejudice that some of our own citizens
and others have against India, for example, if Europeans say something
it has to be true, or Europeans are more law abiding, or Europeans are
not corrupt, or since they make the most noise about 'human rights',
they actually respect it (they don't, especially if it involves
non-Europeans) and to highlight the pervasive European attitude that
they cant be held responsible by others.

from:  SP
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 23:55 IST

A thorough and unbiased investigation is needed by Indian authorities. Conclusive technical evidence would need to be established against the Italian navy personnel allegedly responsible for the killing. E.g. show that the murder weapons were those seized from the Italians. If such evidence is not forthcoming, we should not proceed with prosecution of the case as it would only damage our relations with Italy.

from:  R. Srinivasan
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 22:42 IST

I hope the whole issue doesn't degenerate to the level of Indians against Italians or West vs. the east. I just hope the whole thing is kept at the level of unarmed fishermen killed mistakenly by security personnel of a cargo ship.

from:  sarat
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 22:41 IST

Some times back there was a news regarding GPS in the ship giving exact position of ship when firing occurred. There was also mention, the GPS. Position will clear weather ship was with in Indian territorial water. What happened? Why no word about Gps till now by both India And Italian authority?

from:  Veeraswamiv
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 20:53 IST

@ Mr.Karthik... Don't worry, at the end of the day the Government won't be at fault at all. They played it perfectly! Do you want to know the result before hand? The argument about the incident happening beyond the 'contiguous zone' will be accepted by the court,( my personal opinion is.. rightly so).At the end of the day we won't have anything to say about the Government, when the court rules it that way! My comments may be moderated, or never publised, but thats what is going to happen, and rightly so!

from:  Jaya Prakash
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 20:42 IST

I just hope the Indian Govt don't let Italy take control of the
situation. I expect the Indian Govt to take proper action without

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Feb 21, 2012 at 19:46 IST
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