martedì 3 settembre 2013

2012/13 Odyssey of two Italian Marines

September 3, 2013,  Day 562


This is a document intended both as an article for ready publication or as a draft text to be freely used, modified and published by any journalist in any country with no rights demanded by the original writer.

Written on September 3, 2013

by Stefano Tronconi

- After publishing a new reconstruction of how the events involving the two Italian marines Salvatore Girone e Massimiliano Latorre have most likely really unfolded on that distant day of February 15, 2012 (please refer to and to in order to find a more in-depth technical analysis produced by Luigi Di Stefano supporting such reconstruction);
- after exposing the political background that has led the main players in the case (Kerala, India and Italy) to behave in the shameful way they have (;
- after proposing a possible course of action available to the Italian government in the short term to raise the pressure on India and pursue the goal of bringing back to Italy quickly and with dignity the two soldiers illegally detained (this document is only available in Italian language;
in order to further shed light on the entangled and disturbing case, we deem now necessary to focus our attention on the two Indian individual players who, based upon our information, bear the greatest responsibility for the kidnapping of the two Italian soldiers whose detention in India has now passed the 18 months mark.

The two Indian players we are referring to are:
the mastermind behind the kidnapping, Oommen Chandy, current chief minister of Kerala, who throughout his career has so far repeatedly skirted scams of various nature and accusations of corruption;
the provider of central political cover to the kidnapping, A. K. Antony, current minister of Defense in the Indian government and Chandy's predecessor in the position of chief minister of Kerala.
As sideline additional information, we would like to point out that both politicians belong to an ancient Christian community, believed to have emigrated from Syria, that settled in Kerala in the first years of Christianity. Such community, in spite of being today split in several religious denominations, still represents a single distinct ethnic group.
Chandy ed Antony have each built their own political career by providing each other unflinching mutual support since the time when their political circle successfully managed to replace the previous local leadership and take control of the Congress Party in Kerala.

Back to the main subject, we have already explained in several occasions how the plan for the kidnapping of the Italian soldiers arose most likely in the mind of Chandy on the day following the alleged incident between the Enrica Lexie and the St. Anthony. On February 16, 2012 in fact the chief minister of Kerala found himself with a docked Italian ship unsuspecting of any wrongdoing in the port of Kochi, a surprised and weak Italian government unable to articulate any kind of proper response and a Greek ship (the likely involuntary responsible of the killing of the two fishermen) already far away in the high seas.
The chief minister of Kerala realized then that the Italian marines, if well played with, could represent his golden opportunity to win the local elections to be held a few weeks later that Chandy was at risk of losing. This is the reason why, in other articles, we have termed the kidnapping of the two marines 'primarily political'. The 'extortive' nature of the kidnapping was only secondary in importance, and mostly useful to get on board with the plan the fishermen of the St. Anthony on whose complicity Chandy could so rely upon, not only as a result of his authority, but also for very substantial financial reasons.

In consideration of the fact that the Kerala police in last instance directly reports to Chandy, the chief minister was confident that he didn't need to worry about directing the local investigation towards the desired outcome. Therefore, as a first step, the choice was to close ranks with the chief police investigator in order to make up for some inevitable potential 'mistakes' occurred amidst the confusion of the night of the incident.
The two main 'mistakes', that needed immediate taking care of, required that some testimonial documentation, not in line with the criminal project, should disappear instantly from the public ears and eyes (unfortunately for Chandy in the times of internet nothing really disappears and so a few months ago all the original documents have finally resurfaced) and be replaced with new 'proofs' to be expressly fabricated. These 'mistakes' are:
- the television interview given on the night of the incident, immediately upon arrival ashore, by Freddy Bosco, the fisherman owner of the St. Anthony, in which he has clearly stated, with a policeman standing aside, that the incident of his fishing boat has occurred at around 9.30 p.m., confirming twice the time when a reporter asked if he didn't mean 5 p.m., the time of the already known encounter between the Enrica Lexie and a pirate boat (please see – last part of the video);
- the post-mortem examination conducted by a certain doctor Sasikala that had certified that the bullet which had killed one of the fishermen had characteristics definitely not compatible with the bullets in use to the Italian soldiers. Immediately after the release of the results of his autopsy, doctor Sasikala was the target of an injunction not to talk again about the case and therefore he has not been heard again publicly since.

Chandy's intervention and the actions of the Kerala police however would not be enough to manipulate the investigation, so as to make appear the Italian marines guilty, without the critical cooperation of the Indian Coast Guard.
The Indian Coast Guard, suspecting the existence of a possible link between the incident reported by the Enrica Lexie and the one reported by the St.Anthony five hours later, the night before had tricked the unsuspecting Enrica Lexie into the port of Kochi from international waters with a request to cooperate with Indian authorities by providing additional information on the reported encounter with pirates. Chandy needed that any reporting by the Indian Coast Guard on the incident would be aligned with the story that the Kerala police was in the process of 'rewriting' and therefore the complicity of the highest political level in the reporting line of the Indian Coast Guard, i.e. the Indian minister of Defense, was essential.
Chance was that the Indian minister of Defense at the time was, and still is, the long-time friend, political ally and mentor of Chandy himself, A.K. Antony.
Since February 16, 2012 and throughout more than 18 months until today Antony would unrelentingly support Chandy's plans and would play his 'longa manus' in Delhi.

The false reconstruction of the events occurred off the coast of Kerala allegedly provided by the Indian Coast Guard is, to some extent, even more astonishing than the false statements provided by Freddy Bosco and the fishermen in the days following the incident or the debased ballistics analysis (widely leaked through the press, but never yet officially published) insofar as the false reconstruction would come directly from an institution like the Indian Armed Forces (or at least one of its branches).
We remind incidentally our readers that, in order to hide the five hour difference between the incident declared by the Enrica Lexie and the one occurred to the St. Anthony, and in order to make appear the Italian marines guilty, the Kerala police and the Indian Coast Guard must have procured to:
lock in a drawer and hide from public knowledge (for a certain period they even tried to deny the existence of such a second incident) the report to the International Maritime Organization issued at 10.20 p.m. of February 15, 2012 by the Greek cargo ship Olympic Flair in which it is reported a pirate attack suffered off the coast of Kerala much more compatible with the incident suffered by the St. Anthony;
'anticipate' all the actions of the Indian Coast Guard to an earlier time in the day.

So, under direction of the Kerala police, Freddie Bosco and the other fishermen didn't hesitate to change their initial witness versions so as to make them fit for the fabricated case that the police was building (irrespective of this, due to the Italian tendency to give in to any blackmailing under the excuse of humanitarian reasons and the total ineptitude shown in handling this specific case, plenty of compensation for the families of the St. Anthony's victims and the fishermen was already on its way from Italy). More specifically:
the time of the incident of the St.Anthony from the initially declared 9.30 p.m. is made to coincide with the time of the aborted pirate attack suffered by the Enrica Lexie;
the location of the incident is moved from 'well within Indian territorial waters', i.e. less than 12 miles from the coast, to the same position recorded by the Enrica Lexie, that is more than 20 miles off the coast in international waters;
the dynamics of the incident itself are completely altered because if it was likely, as initially stated, that most of the fishermen were asleep at 9.30 p.m. when darkness had already set in, this was no longer credible with the new time of the incident alleged in the afternoon.

On the other side, under the alleged input received by Antony, the Indian Coast Guard came up with a very creative story about the events of February 15, 2012.
In such a story, also published in the Indian Coast Guard official newsletter of June 2012, with words and a style more fitting the propaganda used by military regimes around the world rather than by democratic countries, and the evident intention to glorify the strength and effectiveness of the Indian armed forces to the point of ridicule, it is narrated that Indian military ships were already out and about at around 7 p.m. in order to intercept the Enrica Lexie.
Unfortunately, we have now discovered, based upon documents in our hands, that the first message sent out to the Enrica Lexie by the Indian Coast Guard with the request to return to Kochi has the time of 9.36 p.m. (that is, a few minutes after the St. Anthony reported its own incident by radiophone). The reconstruction made by the Indian Coast Guard appears therefore to be pure fiction for reasons that have become now apparently clear.

But the cover allegedly offered by Antony to Chandy is much broader than just tampering with the evidence of the investigation.
In fact, if in Kerala, also due to:
- the enormous pressure exerted by the fishermen organizations demanding a culprit at all costs;
- the rewards promised by Chandy to those who would give their full cooperation (for example, the chief police investigator who has fabricated the false case against the Italian soldiers has been immediately promoted at the end of the investigation);
- the incessant media campaign carried out against the 'Italian killer marines' even in absence of any concrete proofs and before the starting of any trial ;
doubts and warnings in relation to the actions undertaken by Chandy were almost non-existent, in Delhi it was a different story.
The alleged behind-the-scene role of Antony to back up the friend and political ally Chandy appears then to have been absolutely critical.
It's so that, when the attorney general initially entrusted by the Indian government to follow the case stated in front of the Indian Supreme Court that what was happening in Kerala with the seizing of an Italian ship and the arrest of two military personnel was illegal, the same attorney general was immediately replaced with another colleague ready to follow the line dictated by the Kerala political two-men clan.

In order to better understand the fundamental role played by Antony we should keep in mind that he is not only the minister of Defense in the current Indian coalition government, but he is in all respects the number two of this same government, his authority formally second only to that of prime minister Manmohan Singh. Since the beginning of the current legislative term, prime minister Singh has been mostly busy trying to keep together a governing coalition that tends to fight on every issue, moves from one scam to the next, is disparaged by the majority of the public opinion and is considered extremely weak in dealing with foreign policy matters. Alltogether, a perfect environment for Antony to be able to hijack Indian foreign policy for what he and his Kerala ally deemed a perfect opportunity to strengthen their personal power and political image.
Antony's political skills after all are well known in India. In the 2012 rankings The Indian Express placed him among the ten most powerful Indians of the year. Furthermore, using a description taken from a comment appeared in The Times of India by a reader from Kerala stating to have known him since their youths, 'Antony is very happy to be considered an incorruptible politician, but in truth what really makes him happy is being surrounded by a very corrupt and incompetent political class that he can play with at will and allows him to appear as the only statesman even with very few real merits'. Anthony is seen, in substance, as an expert political manipulator.

So, in the difficult political and diplomatic saga that unfolds on the issue of the two Italian marines, Antony never takes center stage to personally give cover to the criminal actions undertaken by Chandy, but in truth he appears to have assumed the position of the play-maker deploying, each time in accordance with the needs of the moment, less brilliant and more controversial colleagues.
Initially, and throughout the first few months, Antony sheltered Chandy's actions by deploying in the first line of battle the octogenarian and dull foreign minister S.M. Krishna, the same minister who became the laughing-stock of the entire world when at a U.N. Assembly meeting he started to read the speech of his Portuguese colleague instead of his own, persisting for several minutes without realizing what he was doing.
After a government reshuffle, and the appointment as foreign minister in place of the hapless Krishna of the better qualified and more cautious Salman Kurshid (who, in the context of Indian politics, is anyway marked by the personal inherent political 'weakness' of belonging to the Muslim minority), it was presumably always Antony who, in order to protect Chandy and derail Kurshid's diplomatic action aimed at finding a solution to the imbroglio that is damaging India's reputation not only with Italy, but also with the E.U. and many other India's allies, spread out his ammunition by calling into action:
first, the former Law minister Ashwani Kumar who raised an unbelievable controversy on the mostly theoretical issue of the possibility of the death penalty for the two marines in case of a guilty verdict, possibility ruled out by Kurshid in a letter of guarantee given to the Italian government and based on several legal opinions (Kumar has been replaced as Law minister shortly after-wards as a result of one of the many scandals that have plagued the current Indian government);
later on, the Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde (also embroiled in repeated controversies for a number of blunders, clumsy statements and involvement in several scams) who has managed to add another provocation by entrusting the anti-terrorism police with a new investigation of the case pretending to ignore how ludicrous it looks the association between terrorism and the alleged incident. With the assignment of the case to the NIA (the anti-terrorism police) rather than to the CBI Shinde has managed to:
- extend again the duration of the farcical investigation;
- embarrass his colleague Kurshid who, in order to convince Italy (whose position and huge blunders are not the subject of this article and will therefore only receive a quick mention in the next paragraph) to send back the marines in view of maintaining good bilateral relations between India and Italy, had guaranteed a fast and fair conclusion of the case;
- perform a new humiliating act of hostility towards Italy.

Incidentally, it's hard to imagine how it is possible that a plethora of Italian politicians, special envoys, senior and junior diplomats, military top brass, bureaucrats of the foreign affair and defense departments, journalists, lawyers (Italian and Indian), all generously and excessively paid, have managed to understand nothing of the Indian internal political dynamics that have generated and continue to affect the farcical and tragical case of the two Italian marines.
With regard to the huge mistakes and miserable failures emerged throughout the events of the last eighteen months we could write a new treatise on the meaning and effects of incompetence in politics and public institutions. As this is, however, beyond the scope of the present article we would only like to express the wish that, after the return to Italy of the two marines, the Italian magistrates will finally take action and start to seriously investigate the various accusations, in some cases already lodged, against politicians such as Giorgio Napolitano, Mario Monti and many others. Serious accusations which include, but are not limited to, the violation of the constitutional rights of Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre.
Of course, we also express the wish that the Italian people would find the courage and dignity to force all those not responsible of specific crimes, but simply of sheer incompetence to leave their posts in order to dedicate themselves to something more productive for society.
In fact, if for the Indian people it should be totally unacceptable that a small political clan headed by two powerful figures could succeed in manipulating the elections and the overall democratic process in an important State like Kerala, and in hijacking the country's foreign policy with consequences on India's international reputation that will be long-lasting, for the Italian people it should be equally unacceptable that an entire political class and all the main institutions of the country, including the armed forces, are exposed to be so inadequate and incompetent as to be unable to understand and confront the challenges posed by the same small political Indian clan.

In conclusion, now that we have better focused the role allegedly played by a small group of dishonest, unscrupulous and manipulative Indian politicians in the odyssey of Salvatore Girone e Massimiliano Latorre, a resumption of political initiative from the Italian side, after months of lethargy, is urgently needed. Also because the same Indian judiciary system has already badly burnt itself and its reputation in dealing with the case (a more in-depth analysis of the inconclusive and biased legal proceedings that have accompanied the case may become the subject of a future paper) and the same judiciary system is therefore certainly not in the condition now to offer any guarantees of fairness. This urgent resumption of political initiative from the Italian side must at last include, in the absence of a quick return to Italy of the two marines, also the possibility of embracing a position of strong condemnation of India's illegal actions and abuses at the international level (


Nessun commento:

Posta un commento