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HindustanTimes Tue,23 Sep 2014

Italian minister visits marines in India awaiting trial

AFP  Kochi, December 16, 2012
First Published: 15:25 IST(16/12/2012) | Last Updated: 15:27 IST(16/12/2012)

Italy's defence minister on Sunday visited two Italian marines awaiting trial in India on charges of murdering two fishermen, and appealed for the men to be allowed home for Christmas.

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Giampolo Di Paolo told reporters he had faith in the Indian justice system after meeting the marines in the southern city of Kochi, where they have been ordered to stay since the shooting in February.

"They are in active duty. It is my responsibility," he said. "I do respect the Supreme Court of India. We are confident that the case will be solved."

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone shot dead two fishermen off India's southwestern coast in February while guarding an Italian oil tanker, but they deny the murder charges.

The pair, who say they mistook the fishermen for pirates, are being tried in India in a case that has caused a diplomatic row.

Rome has called the case against them illegal and has appealed to India's Supreme Court to quash it.

Italy insists the marines should be prosecuted in their home country because the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters, but India says they took place in waters under its jurisdiction.

"For us, Christmas is a great festival," Di Paolo said. "We want them to be with their families and parents. I am confident that Indian people will understand our feelings."

The two men's petition requesting bail conditions be altered to allow them to return home for Christmas will be heard on Tuesday.

Armed guards are increasingly deployed on cargo ships and tankers in the Indian Ocean to tackle the threat posed by Somali pirates, who often hold ships and crews hostage for months demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms.


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