Kollam (Kerala): After the visit of three Italian ministers to try and get two Italian marines released from prison, Kerala witnessed a round of Church diplomacy when two Italian priests arrived at the home of one of the fishermen shot dead by the marines. Confirming to IANS that on Wednesday two Italian priests arrived here and visited the home of Gelastine, one of the two fishermen killed by the Italian marines, Father Rajesh Martin said the visit was "just a spiritual exercise".
"Reports that have appeared in a section of the media that the visit of the Italian priests was to find an out-of-court settlement are baseless. They visited the home of Gelastine and also went to the graveyard of the deceased and prayed. This was purely a spiritual exercise, which any Catholic priest would do, and please don't say that it was to try for an out-of-court settlement in the case," said Martin.
Two fishermen, Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were apparently mistaken as pirates and shot dead by marines aboard the vessel Enrica Lexie on Feb 15, off Alappuzha. The marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, were picked up from the vessel and sent to jail on Feb 20 on murder charges by a court in Kollam. They are lodged in the Central Prison in the state capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Gelastine's wife and children have filed a petition in the high court demanding compensation of Rs.1 crore. "The out-of-court settlement is taking place, but that is being done by the counsel of the Italian ship's owners. They are talking to our counsel. The news report linking the priests and an out of court settlement is totally wrong, and they do not have any brief on that," said Martin.
The Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi, his deputy and the defence minister were here and met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, but the latter has stood his ground that the Indian law will take its course in the case.
Meanwhile, state Labour Minister Shibu Baby John said the state government is not aware of any visit by the Italian priests. "The state government stand has been made very clear, and the issue is now in the court. We have made our stand very clear that the Indian law will be in force in this case," said John, who hails from Kollam.
The high court which heard the plea for the vessel's release has asked the court here to look into the case.