Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called up his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Tuesday evening to express concern about the possibility that the two Italian marines held in India for killing two Indian fishermen last year could face the death penalty.
Monti had also spoken to external affairs minister Salman Khurshid last Friday. Italy is worried that the marines may hang in spite of an official clarification to the contrary issued by India to Italy last month.
At the time that Italy decided to send the marines back to India on March 21 to stand trial, Khurshid had also said in Parliament that the case would not fall in the ‘rarest of rare’ category and so the accused would not attract the death penalty. But last week, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) invoked a tough maritime safety law — which provides only for the death penalty on conviction — against the marines.
“PM Singh said that in view of the pending investigations, it would be premature to take a view on specific aspects. But he recalled the clarifications provided by the ministry of external affairs to Italy in its earlier communication,” official sources said.
Singh also informed Monti that “the process of setting up a special court is at a fairly advanced stage”, sources said. The attorney general would provide further details in this regard during the hearing in the Supreme Court on April 16.