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Investigations into clashes at sea proving hard to pursue

Investigations into clashes at sea between fishermen and conservationists over the past two weeks over tuna fishing are continuing.

With the activists still out at sea, the police have still to find the best way to hear their version of events. "As they are not physically here, you cannot simply summon them to the police depot for questioning, as is usually the case," sources said.

Through their International Relations Unit, the police will communicate with Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to get their side of the story, even if in written form rather than verbally.

Hearing what the people involved in the two skirmishes have to say will help the police determine whether to press charges, against whom and for what.

Though maritime law experts have termed the clashes as acts of piracy, the sources said any charges ultimately depended on which vessels were registered in Malta and also the exact location of the incidents.

Launched shortly after the incidents took place, the investigation is conducted by the police Administrative Law Enforcement section, which has so far taken the statements of two Maltese divers injured in a clash last week with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Rueben Silvio required a dozen sutures on his right hand after accidentally mistaking for a lifeline a line bearing a grappling hook allegedly used by the activists to tear open a tuna pen.

Joe Barry was badly bruised by what he claims were rubber bullets.

The owners of the fishing company involved, Fish and Fish, were also summoned to the police headquarters to make a statement.

The police are waiting for the fishermen involved in the clashes to return to Malta and hear their version of events. It is understood the fishermen have been delayed at sea.

Videos and photographs taken by the fishermen, some of which have already been published, were handed over to the police to assist them in establishing what happened.

Sharp tools reportedly confiscated from Greenpeace by the Armed Forces of Malta in another clash two weeks ago have already been passed on to the police as potential evidence should the case end up in court.

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