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INDIA Italian marines face new legal hurdle in India

Apex court voids deal in fishermen case

By Akhel Mathew, Correspondent
May 2, 2012

Thiruvananthapuram: Two Italian marines imprisoned in Kerala and accused of killing two fishermen off the Kollam coast in February, appear to have a long haul in front of them — along with their vessel.

The latest observation by India's Supreme Court has made it more difficult for the ship involved in the case, Enrica Lexie, to leave the country.

It has also made the out-of-court settlement between the Italians and the owner of the fishing boat involved in the case, all but void.

The apex court has seen the out-of-court pact between the Italians and the complainant as an attempt to defeat the legal process in the country regarding the incident.

It has also ruled that the ship cannot be released unless the Italian government guarantees that other marines who were on the ship at the time of the incident will also appear for legal proceedings whenever required.

The court's observations mean that Italian hopes for an early extrication from the case have been dashed. The two Italian marines arrested in the case, Laotorre Massimilano and Salvatore Girone are in prison facing charges of murder of two fishermen, Gelastine and Ajesh Binku.

Questions raised

The case took a twist last week when J Freddy, the owner of the St Antony's fishing boat that carried the fishermen, opted for an out-of-court settlement with the Italian camp for a consideration of Rs1.7 million (Dh32,292).

The apex court has also questioned the state government for not having challenged the settlement before a larger bench of the high court.

The shooting case has attracted international attention since the two Italian marines were taken into custody by the Kerala police, and different lawyers representing the state government, the ship and the Italian government are presently arguing out the case.

Meanwhile, fishing boat owner Freddy has approached the high court for altering the terms of the settlement he made with the Italians.

The move is to get some of the illegalities in the original settlement altered, in view of the apex court's observation. On the day of the incident, Freddy told reporters that he had steered the boat away from the Italian ship, from which bullets were being shot at them. However, he has been less critical of the Italians' action since.

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