India hands tied if Italian witnesses don’t testifyhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/india-hands-tied-if-italian-witnesses-dont-testify/

India hands tied if Italian witnesses don’t testify

Besides,there are six crew members of the ship,two of them Italians including the ship’s master,whom the prosecution has given the task of identifying the accused.

Though two Italian marines,chargesheeted for killing Kerala fishermen,have returned to face trial in a special court,the prosecution would have to look towards Italy again since four other marines have been listed as witnesses for the firing incident and identification of arms seized from the ship,Enrica Lexie. Besides,there are six crew members of the ship,two of them Italians including the ship’s master,whom the prosecution has given the task of identifying the accused.

The Italian merchant ship was allowed to go off Kochi,where it was detained as part of the investigation,after the ship owner assured that the crew would be made available when required by the Indian authorities.

Maritime lawyer V J Mathew said that as per the Supreme Court directive,the shipping firm had executed a bond of Rs 3 crore before the Registrar of the Kerala High Court as a surety for the presence of the crew whenever required. “If the crew members are not produced by the firm whenever required by India,the firm would lose the bond. No other action can be taken against them. The bond would not cover the four marines listed as witnesses,’’ said Mathew,who appeared for the firm.

Police sources said that if the marines fail to appear as witnesses,little can be done against them. “The court would issues summons to the witnesses. If they do not turn up,the court can issue arrest warrants. If they were in India,police could have arrested and produced them before the court. In the case of four Italian citizens,we can seek the help of Interpol,’’ said sources. They cited the SNC Lavalin corruption case in which its former senior executive in Canada is an accused. Although the CBI court in Kochi had issued non-bailable arrest warrants against former Lavalin executive Klaus Trendl several times,they were not even served to him.

Apart from the four Italian navy guards,nine Kerala fishermen on the ill-fated fishing boat are also arraigned as witnesses to the incident.

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Boat owner J Freddy,a key witness,had accepted Rs 17 lakh as compensation from Italy. He then changed his stand saying that “he was not sure whether it were Italian marines who fired at his boat’’. He also gave in writing to Italy that he had pardoned the marines.