UPDATE: Italian Crew Questioned in Shooting Deaths of Two Indian Fishermen

By MarEx 2012-02-21 09:54:42

Update: February 21, 2012

Today, the Italian navy guards of the Enrica Lexie filed a plea asking the Kerala High Court to reject the FIR against the two accused in the fishermen killing case. Reports state that a senior Supreme Court lawyer is ready to represent them. 

The Italian and Indian governments are working closely together at both a federal and state level. The Italian Foreign Minister reports that this situation is saddening because it involves military servicemen who were acting in international waters to prevent piracy. 

The two Italian marines were part of a security detachment assigned to protect the merchant vessel from attacks in the Indian Ocean when the incident happened.

View the original report below. 

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Indian police and coastguard authorities are questioning the crew of an Italian oil tanker after shots fired from their ship killed two Indian fishermen.

According to police reports, the armed guards onboard the tanker mistook the Indian fishing boat for a pirate vessel. Indian officials claim that the fishermen did nothing to pose a threat to the cargo ship or its crew.

The MV ENRICA LEXIE was en route from Singapore to Egypt, Wednesday, with a crew of 19 Indians when it encountered the fishing vessel in waters off the southern Indian state of Kerala.

According to Italian officials, the armed guards onboard the tanker fired warning shots at the fishermen and continued to fire in self-defense, fearing they would be attacked. Nine of the 11 Indian fishermen were asleep when shots were fired. The two who lost their lives were steering the fishing boat.

The tanker has docked in Kochi and the armed crew members involved in the shootings have been arrested. Indian officials say they will face murder charges and will be tried in Kochi courts system.

Piracy has become a major threat to crew members sailing through the region, with attacks occurring further away from shore and violence towards crew members becoming the norm. The international community has made great strides in providing their navies to patrol these dangerous waters. Despite these efforts, the threat to seafarers remains great and has prompted shipping companies to find their own solutions to deter piracy. Many vessels are looking to arms onboard, private security, and non-lethal methods such as lasers to combat hijacking attempts.

Wednesday’s incident brings light to the dangers of arming crew with lethal weapons. Many agree that commercial vessels should be equipped with ways to protect themselves but point out the dangerous of putting lethal weapons onboard. Wednesday’s deaths are likely to spark new talks on regulating the use of weapons onboard commercial vessels.

The MV ENRICA LEXIE is owned by Dolphin Tanker SRL and operated by D’amato Fratelli SPA, both based in Naples, Italy.

VIDEO: The Italian ambassador in Delhi was summoned by India’s foreign ministry on Thursday over the shooting.