They were present on board Italian vessel Enrica Lexie

The National Investigation Agency has questioned four Italian marines, who were witness to the killing of two fishermen off the Kerala coast in 2012, through videoconferencing as they appeared at the Indian Embassy in Rome.

NIA investigators had on Monday questioned through videoconferencing the four witnesses, who were present on board Italian vessel Enrica Lexie when their colleagues Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone shot dead two fishermen on February 15, 2012.

The four marines arrived at the Indian embassy in Rome following serving of Letters Rogatory and their statements were recorded by the investigators in the presence of a magistrate in Delhi, a Home Ministry official said.

The questioning of the witnesses through video links was necessitated after their refusal to come to India for deposition and the Home Ministry’s reluctance to send any team to Rome to quiz them.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the government was happy that the main hurdle in the case was over and the NIA could now bring all the facts before the court.

Italy’s stance

Notwithstanding India’s consistent request to send the witnesses, Italy had made it clear that the four will not go to India to appear before the investigators in connection with the case in which two Italian marines are accused.

After Italy’s refusal, the Home Ministry had sought the opinion of the Attorney General to suggest a way forward.

With the top law officer advising the government against sending a National Investigation Agency (NIA) team to Italy, the Ministry was left with the only option of questioning the four witnesses through videoconferencing.

Latorre and Girone have been slapped with murder charges for gunning down Ajesh Binki and Jelestine.

The NIA had questioned and recorded the statements of Master of the vessel Umberto Vittelli, Chief Officer James Mandley Samson, Second Officer Sahil Gupta, Seamen Fulbaria Marendra, Kumar Naren and former ordinary seaman Kantamuich Tirumal Rao. — PTI

  • Marines questioned via videoconferencing

  • They appeared at the Indian Embassy in Rome