Thiruvananthapuram, Mar 12: Sensing a political storm, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has demanded that the Union government ensure the return of the two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year.
“Kerala’s position is clear. We want the Italian marines to face the trial in India. My government had opposed their petition regarding them being allowed to visit their families during Christmas. We had insisted on the sureties and bonds for relaxing their bail conditions. We had also expressed fear that they might not return to India if they were allowed to go,” the chief minister told TEHELKA. According to him, India should use diplomatic channels to get back the accused, to face trial in India.
The chief minister is well aware that the Kerala government has no stake in the case as the Supreme Court had ordered that Kerala has no legal jurisdiction to prosecute the Italian marines. But he still cannot escape the heat with the one-million strong fishermen community agitated over the serious lapses made by union government in the case.
Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan told TEHELKA that it was the Congress government which had helped the Italians evade Indian law. “It’s a shame on our country that we colluded with Italy to evade our laws. It shows that we have no concern for our citizens,” VS pointed out. He alleged that it was under Sonia Gandhi’s influence that the Italians were allowed to go free.
Dora Selestian, widow of of of the fishermen killed by the Italian marines, expressed her pain about the new developments. She said it was most unfortunate that the Italian marines did not respect Indian law. “I wanted justice for my deceased husband. It is the Central government’s duty to ensure their return. I pray to God for justice,” she said.
Sebastian Paul, a practicing lawyer in the Supreme Court, blamed both the state and union government for helping the Italian marines jump Indian laws. “It’s an open secret that the Congress government never wanted the Italian marines to face trial in the fishermen killing case. But it has set a bad precedence,” he said. According to him, India has no option if Italy decides not to send the marines for facing trial in the murder case. “No bonds were executed and no sureties were made. It is clear that Italy has fooled India,” said Paul.
T. Peter, national general secretary of the Fishworkers forum told TEHELKA that the fishermen community had been left in the lurch by both the Indian and Italian government. “Our fishermen were killed and the killers have escaped. We are pained by the casual attitude of the government,” said Peter.