Church not to intervene in Italian Marines case

After facing flak for its earlier intervention in the Italian marines case, the Indian Catholic Church has now flatly refused to help bring four Italian marines, who were to depose as witnesses in the killing of two fishermen off Alappuzha coast, to the country

Published: 25th August 2013 08:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2013 08:22 AM   |  A+A-

After facing flak for its earlier intervention in the Italian marines case, the Indian Catholic Church has now flatly refused to help bring four Italian marines, who were to depose as witnesses in the killing of two fishermen off Alappuzha coast, to the country.

The Italy’s refusal to send the four marines to the country to depose would be a big setback, as it would further delay the probe.  The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had summoned the four marines, who were onboard the Italian vessel Enrica Lexie when their colleagues Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012.

To save its face, the Central government is learnt to have tried the ‘Church route’ to get the marines to depose. Towards this end, the Centre had deployed two Catholic civil service officers -- one from the IAS and the other the IFS. But Catholic heads in the country, it is learnt, have decided not to intervene.  “The government had approached us through emissaries, who happened to be Catholics. But we have decided not to meddle in this matter anymore,” said one of the senior priests from the Catholic Bishops Council of India (CBCI), the official decision making body of Catholics in the country.

In March, the CBCI was accused of brokering an out-of-court deal between the families of the slain fishermen and the Italians, after two Italian Catholic priests paid a secret visit to the families.

After the meeting, the victims’ families signed an agreement with the Italian Government and settled the case for a compensation of Rs 1 crore for each family and withdrew the petitions and submissions against the marines. “We already have burnt our fingers in this case without doing any wrong. Just as we owe our spiritual loyalty to the Pope, we have our loyalty to our nation too. Those who got killed were also Catholics,” said the priest.

The Church said the matter has to be settled at the earliest. “We are not bothered whether it is out-of-court or through court. All that we demand is that the victims should get justice,” said the priest.

 “The government seems to be quite content even if they depose through written statements or video conferencing. There is a huge difference in the government’s approach now,” said the priest.

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