The Kerala high court on Thursday allowed two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen off the Kollam coast in February to go home for celebrating Christmas with their families.
The verdict came after the Centre took a lenient view on the issue that was threatening to sour ties with Italy.
Though the Kerala government opposed the plea of the marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, the Centre gave an affidavit that the assurance given by the Italian embassy on their return could be accepted.
Justice P Bhavadasan directed the Italian consul general to deposit a R6 crore bank guarantee and ensure that the marines returned to India by January 10, 2013, to face trial. Latorre and Girone are likely to leave on Friday.
The court also ruled that Italian authorities would have to keep the marines under surveillance during their travel and keep the Kochi police commissioner informed about their addresses, mobile numbers and movement.
Dora, wife of slain fisherman Valentine Jalastine, was unhappy at the ruling. “We don’t think they will come back to face trial. Everybody is passionately talking about Christmas in Italy; no one has time for us. We lost our breadwinner, how can we celebrate Christmas this time!”
Jalastine, 45, and Ajesh Binki, 25, were killed when the marines (naval guards) of the Enrica Lexie, an Italian cargo ship, fired at their boat on February 15 after mistaking them for pirates.
Italy has paid Rs.1 crore each to the families of two deceased fishermen. Latorre and Girone are facing murder charges.
Italy made a strong pitch for allowing them to go home for Christmas. Italy’s defence minister Giampaolo Di Paolo had met the marines at Kochi on December 16, two days after the Italian government had summoned the Indian ambassador.
Italy has challenged India’s right to try the marines, saying the shooting took place in international waters. India has said the fishermen were shot in a “contiguous zone” where Indian law applies.