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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Anger in India as Italy refuses to send back 2 marines

Agencies  New Delhi, March 12, 2013
First Published: 12:17 IST(12/3/2013) | Last Updated: 11:17 IST(14/3/2013)

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday termed as "unacceptable" Italy's refusal to send its two marines back to India where they were facing trial for killing two fishermen and said the issue will be taken up with that country.

Singh conveyed this to delegations of Kerala MPs from Left and Congress, who met him separately to express anguish and demand his intervention in the "serious" matter.

The Prime Minister said it was "unacceptable", according to CPI(M) MPs KN Balagopal and MB Rajesh.

Singh told the Left MPs that he will ask external affairs minister Salman Khurshid to take up the issue with Italy.

His comments came in the wake of Italian foreign ministry statement that the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will not return to India from Italy where they had gone to cast vote in last month's elections after special permission granted by the Supreme Court.

The two marines are facing trial for allegedly killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year, mistaking them for pirates.

The Italian ministry claimed India had not responded to its requests to seek a diplomatic solution to the case and there was now a formal dispute between the two countries over the terms of the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea.

In this file photograph, Italian marines Latore Massimiliano (L) and Salvatore Girone (R) are escorted by police outside a court in Kollam. AFP photo

Khurshid said the government is studying Italy's decision, its reasons as also implications.

"We will study and take a rightful position... We will take informed position," he told reporters on the issue which is very sensitive in Kerala politics.

CPI(M) MP MB Rajesh said, "We met the Prime Minister and took up the issue of Italian marines. The Prime Minister told us that he came to know about this from newspapers. He assured us that he will ask the External Affairs Minister to look into this issue to intervene in this issue."

Balagopal alleged that it was "the result of a high level conspiracy between somebody holding the highest post in Indian government and government of Italy." He, however, did not specify.

A delegation of MPs from Congress-led UDF also met the Prime Minister separately.

"More than saying whether this is acceptable or not, the Prime Minister has said that he will ask external affairs minister to take up this issue and use all diplomatic channels to bring them back," Congress MP PC Chacko said after the meeting.

MPs from Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Kerala Congress (Mani) were also part of the delegation.

Law minister Ashwani Kumar said the ministry of external affairs and his ministry will consult with each other and "make sure that we proceed ahead as effectively as we can."

He observed that "there are complications" as the issue relates to a foreign country.

"We are dealing with foreign diplomats within the framework of the established diplomatic conventions and norms," Kumar said.

At the same time, he emphasised that the government needs to ensure that Indian laws and court processes are "respected by foreigners".

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi was asked by reporters in Parliament House to comment on the issue but he did not answer.

The government appears to have been taken aback by Italy's decision not to send back its two marines accused of killing Indian fishermen with Khurshid merely saying that the government was studying Rome's decision.


It was a "collective decision" to send back the two Italian marines being tried for murder in India to vote in that country's general election, Khurshid said on Tuesday.

"It was not just Supreme Court decision but our country's collective decision. They did return back after Christmas and we will respond after seeing what reasoning Italy has given," Khurshid told reporters.

The BJP on Tuesday termed as "betrayal and bluff" the Italian government's refusal to send back two marines charged with shooting dead two Indian fishermen and demanded that all efforts be made to bring them back to face trial in the case.

"This is betrayal and bluff by the Italian government.It is a breach of trust between two sovereign nations and the act is completely unacceptable. Indian government should take every step to retrieve the fugitives immediately and conduct trial under Indian laws and in Indian courts," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

He said BJP will seek an explanation from the government as to why the Italian government is so "casual" about India.

"We have witnessed the same in the Ottavio Quattrochi case and now a similar action where Italian government has virtually challenged India's highest court," he said.


The decision not to send Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who had been allowed to come home to vote and meet their families, back to India was taken by Italy's defence and justice ministries in consultation with the country's prime minister's office.

The two marines have been at the centre of a year-long international row for allegedly shooting dead two Indian fishermen after mistaking them for pirates off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012.

Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get Latorre and Girone tried in Italian courts, while India contends the shooting occurred in its own territory.

Supreme Court in February allowed Latorre and Girone to return to Italy to vote in the Feb 24-25 national election. It had earlier allowed them to go home for Christmas.

According to reports, the marines have said they are happy to stay back in Italy and join work.

Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy on Tuesday termed as unacceptable Italy's decision not to send its two marines to India, who were being tried for killing two fishermen. He said he will take up the issue with the external affairs ministry.

"I am reaching Delhi (Tuesday) night and I will take this issue up with the external affairs ministry. We are also looking to take up this issue legally," Chandy said after Italy announced that the marines will not be returning to India.

The Italian government claimed that New Delhi "does not have jurisdiction over the case".

Chandy said: "You should see the earnestness in how Kerala pursued this case in the... courts and also in the apex court in the country. Our stand remains the same that they should stand trial here according to the Indian law."

In no way would this would be acceptable to Kerala, he said.

Two Italian marines being tried for murder in India will not return to the country as New Delhi does not have jurisdiction over the case, the Italian foreign ministry announced on Monday.

"Italy has always argued that Indian authorities have violated their obligations under international law...especially the principle of immunity from trial by the organs of a foreign state and the United Nation Convention on the Law of the Sea," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The decision not to send Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who had been allowed to come home to vote and meet their families, back to India was taken by Italy's defence and justice ministries in consultation with the prime minister's office, it said.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the case need not be tried in Kerala, instead a special court be set up in Delhi.

The two marines have been at the centre of a year-long international row for allegedly shooting dead two Indian fishermen Ajesh Binki and Gelastine after mistaking them for pirates near the Kerala coast in February 2012.

Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get Latorre and Girone tried in Italian courts, while India contends the shooting occurred in its own territory.

The two marines have been at the centre of a year-long international row for allegedly shooting dead two Indian fishermen after mistaking them for pirates near Kerala in February 2012.

Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and has been trying to get Latorre and Girone tried in Italian courts, while India contends the shooting occurred in its own territory.

Supreme Court last month allowed Latorre and Girone to return to Italy to vote in the Feb 24-25 national election. It had earlier allowed them to go home for Christmas.


Fishermen killings case timeline:

Feb 15, 2012: Two Indian fishermen killed when marines from Italian ship Enrica Lexie fired at their boat off Kollam coast

Feb 19, 2012: Kerala police arrest two marines. Italy protests saying incident occurred in international waters. It sparks a diplomatic row between two countries.

May, 2012: Marines released from jail after 105 days’ judicial custody. Many senior Italian ministers visit marines.

Dec 21, 2012: HC allows marines to go home to celebrate Christmas.

Jan 4, 2013: They return to Kochi to face probe.

Jan 18, 2013
: SC  asks centre to set up a maritime court to try them and shifts case to Delhi. SC allows them to got to Italy to cast their votes.

March 11, 2013: Italy informs India that marines won’t be back.


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