Kochi: Kerala High Court on Friday observed that killing of two Indian fishermen by the Italian marines onboard a merchant ship was a "terrorist act" as they had fired at unarmed men.

The oral observation was made by Justice C S Gopinath while hearing arguments on a petition by the owners of the Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie' seeking her release.

The ship has been detained here since the two fishermen Jelestine and Ajesh Binki were shot dead by two Italian marines off Kerala coast on February 15.

"As far as the victims are concerned, it is a terrorist act. Without any warning, the two were shot dead, they were unarmed," the court said.

The Director General of Shipping informed the court that the vessel need not be held back. All evidence have been taken from the ship during the inquiry.

In a statement filed by Mercantile Marine department under the shipping ministry, it was stated that DG shipping had no objection to the ship being released on condition that the owner would present the master crew and security guards of the ship before any competent authority or courts in India in connection with any further investigation, if needed.

It was stated that the inquiry was in progress and it could not be completed as the Italian marines were now in judicial custody. The probe so far revealed that the firing was 'unprovoked'.

Meanwhile, Advocate General K P Dandapani said the result of the forensic examination of weapons seized from the vessel was awaited. Only after the results were obtained, it could be ascertained that the bullets were shot from the weapons recovered.

Weapons shown by the Italians were seized by the police who do not know if it had been tampered with, the AG stated. The case was adjourned to Mar 27.