The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Italian marine Salvatore Girone, accused of killing Indian fishermen off Kerala coast, to go home, agreeing to relax his bail conditions. The second accused in the case returned to Italy in 2014.
Girone could return to Italy while international arbitration into the case was on, the court said. The Centre backed the marine’s plea, saying he should be granted relief on humanitarian grounds.
Girone will be home next Thursday -- Italy’s Republic Day, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tweeted. Out on bail, the marine has been living in the embassy complex in Delhi.
The arrest of the two marines after the shooting death of two Kerala fishermen on February 15, 2012 strained ties between the two countries, with Italy demanding the sailors be released.
“We confirm our friendship with India, its people and its government,” said Renzi, who has been under pressure to secure the provisional liberty of both marines. “And we say welcome back to seaman Girone who will be with us on June 2.”
A vacation bench of justice PC Pant and justice DY Chandrachud asked the Italian ambassador to give an undertaking that the Girone would return to India within a month of an order from the UN’s permanent court of arbitration in The Hague.
Earlier this month, the tribunal ruled that the sailor be allowed to go home till the dispute was resolved.
Massimiliano Latorre, the other accused, went back to Italy after a stroke. The court has extended his medical leave to September 30.
Italy and India have been making contrary claims over the right to prosecute the marines.
Italy claims the deadly shooting took place in international waters, so the sailors should be tried at home. India says it has the right to try the two men as the fishermen were killed in its waters.
The marines say they mistook the fishermen for pirates and opened fire.
The arbitration proceedings would be completed by December 2018, the Centre had earlier told the court, which stayed all criminal proceedings in the case till the jurisdictional issue was settled.
Under bail conditions, Girone must report to a police station in Italy
on first Wednesday of every month and give an undertaking he will remain under the jurisdiction of the Indian Supreme Court.
A violation would lead to cancellation of the bail, said the court, which on May 23 agreed to hear Girone’s plea following the UN’s panel ruling.
(With agency inputs)