After being detained for over a month in the Kochi Port, the Kerala High Court ordered on Thursday the release of the Italian oil tanker, Enrica Lexie, suspected of involvement in the killing of two Indian fishermen off the state coast on February 15, Khaleej Times reports.
Having collected all the relevant pieces of evidence from the vessel, the Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) established that there is no need to hold back the vessel, having in mind the considerably high costs it incurred on the owners of the vessel.
Nevertheless, considerably rigorous conditions have been imposed by the Kerala Government for the release to come into effect. Namely, the ship’s owners should submit a bond for Rs 3 crore, as a form of compensation for the relatives of the two victims. In addition, the crew members are expected to fully cooperate with the Kerala authorities during the investigation process and present themselves before the court whenever necessary.
According to the findings of the MMD, two Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, currently detained in the Poojappura Central Jail at Trivandrum, fired at the fishermen without being unprovoked. In addition, the MMD’s report says that the merchant ship had a maximum speed of 14 knots as against the maximum 6 knots speed of the fishing boat.
The Court established that the incident could be seen as an act of terrorism since the two fishermen, Ajesh Binki (25) and Gelastine (45), who were passing the Italian ship, were unarmed and killed without signalling of any sort of a warning.
Italian Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola visited the two marines in jail and also expressed interest in meeting the relatives of the murdered fishermen, however the Kerala Government had not granted permission for this.
World Maritime News Staff, March 30, 2012; Image: Indian Navy