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Italy, India in tug of war over trial

delhi Updated: Feb 21, 2012 01:18 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times
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Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi on Monday voiced disagreement with India over the killing of two fishermen reportedly mistaken for pirates by Italian marines on a cargo ship off the Kerala coast.

"There are currently considerable differences of a legal character. Up to now, I have not seen the cooperation between India and Italy that would be desirable and allow a quick resolution," he said in Rome.

His remarks came a day after a special Italian delegation to New Delhi failed to stave off the arrest of two Italian navy personnel on the security team of the ship, Enrica Lexie.

The delegation comprising the secretary of the justice department and heads of the legal departments of both the foreign and defence ministries had made many forceful arguments, but were countered by India.

The delegation had said Italian law provided for extra-territorial jurisdiction over their nationals, so the marines could stand trial under domestic laws. New Delhi, however, had insisted that the ship's crew would face trial in India.

The Italians had also interpreted provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to offer their own inquiry, since the ship was flying the Italian flag. But the Indian team had said the crime was against an Indian trawler, involving unarmed fishermen and not naval ships.

India had also rejected the pirate claim, pointing out that the Kollam coast in Kerala, where the fishermen - Valentine Jalastine, 45, and Ajeesh Binki, 25 - were shot on Wednesday, was not infested with pirates.

When the delegation had pushed for diplomatic immunity for the navy personnel, India countered, saying such a cover was "state specific". For example, a diplomat posted in one country cannot have immunity in another.

New Delhi had stressed friendly ties with Italy and told the delegation their arguments could be made before an Indian court.

With inputs from PTI