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Firing at sea: 2 Italian naval guards sent to police custody

Last updated on: February 20, 2012 19:41 IST

Two Italian naval guards charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen off Kerala coast were on Monday remanded to three-day police custody by a Judicial Magistrate at Karunagapally in this district.

First Class Judicial Magistrate K P Joy, at whose residence the marines were produced amid tight security, remanded the two accused to judicial custody till March 5, but handed them over to investigators accepting a police plea for further questioning.

The marines could not be produced in a court as it was a holiday due to Mahashivratri festival.

Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone, arrested by Kerala Police on Sunday and brought ashore from the ship which was intercepted and anchored at the port, were brought to Kollam for court proceedings from Kochi.

The two Italian marines have been charged with murder under Section 302 of the IPC.

The arrest of the two men, part of the six-member security detail of 'Enrica Lexie' from Italian Navy, climaxed four days of hard negotiations between India and Italy over the incident, which has sparked a diplomatic row.

The Italians claimed that the fishermen Valentine Jalastine and Ajeesh Binki, who had set out to sea along with nine other fishermen on February 15 were shot at on suspicion of being pirates.

Activists of the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist and its student wing Democratic Youth Federation of India staged a protest demanding maximum punishment to the two guards as they were brought to the magistrate's residence.

According to the prosecution lawyer, the magistrate rejected the contention of the marines represented by a lawyer from Kochi that they could not be prosecuted under  Indian law since the firing occurred beyond Indian territorial waters.

During the 90-minute proceedings, besides the investigators, lawyers of prosecution, the accused and an interpreter for the Italian guards were allowed inside.

While proceedings were underway, the activists kept on protesting and some were removed by police. Armed state police commandos were deployed in front of the  magistrate's residence.

The prosecution lawyer later told reporters that police might seek extension of the custody of the marines if the interrogation and investigation required it.

During the meeting between officials of the legal and foreign ministries of the two countries in Delhi on Sunday, both sides asserted their country enjoys extra territorial jurisdiction over any crime or incident in such situations.

India had however maintained that no military personnel can fire on unarmed fishermen, which the Italian side accepted.

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