Marines accused of killing Indian fishermen questioned in Italy

ROME Wed Mar 20, 2013 1:58pm EDT

Italian sailors Massimiliano Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone wait to board an elevator to reach the police commissioner's office in the southern Indian city of Kochi December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Italian sailors Massimiliano Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone wait to board an elevator to reach the police commissioner's office in the southern Indian city of Kochi December 18, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V

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ROME (Reuters) - An Italian military prosecutor on Wednesday questioned two marines who last month refused to return to India to face trial on charges of killing two Indian fisherman while on anti-piracy duty in 2012.

The dispute spurred India's top court last week to temporarily bar the Italian ambassador from leaving the country and has frayed relations between the world's most populous democracy and European Union member Italy.

Dressed in uniform, marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were accompanied by lawyers to the hearing with prosecutor Marco De Paolis, who has opened an investigation into the shooting but has not yet raised any possible charges.

India's Supreme Court ruled in January that India had jurisdiction to try the marines. But Italy has challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in international waters and that the two should face any trial at home.

Wednesday's questioning "marks the beginning of the Italian jurisdiction over the case involving the two marines", a government source told Reuters.

The feud has escalated since the sailors declared they would not return to India after coming home to vote in a national election, prompting the Indian Supreme Court order that the Italian ambassador not leave the country for the time being.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton warned on Tuesday that blocking a diplomatic envoy is a violation of international law.

The marines, part of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie from piracy, are accused of shooting dead two fishermen in February 2012, apparently after mistaking them for pirates in waters off the southern Indian state of Kerala.

Girone and Latorre said they fired warning shots only.

They were detained in India to face trial, but the Supreme Court allowed them to go home for four weeks to vote in a parliamentary election on February 24-25, provided they returned to India. But earlier this month, Italy advised the Indian government the two would not return.

Italy's Foreign Ministry last week said the incident had become a formal dispute over a U.N. resolution mandating international action against piracy.

(Reporting by Alberto Sisto; Writing by Steve Scherer; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (2)
bhartha2007 wrote:
Italy has lost a lot of respect in Asia and in Europe as a result of not sending these two cold blooded murderers back to India to stand trial. So much for the glory days of Rome! As a result, Italy will be perceived as nothing short of a land which harbors killers of innocent people. A land where murderess walk freely in a society which somehow is okay with it (surprisingly) and a government which cheats, deceives and goes about any length to back these free walking killers (those goggles come in handy too). Consciousnesses is something Italians will never know and never will. As far as the jurisdiction of the marines goes, they were in Indian waters and as far as the Italian ambassador is concerned, he should be taken to task and he will be. No Vienna convention is above the supreme court of India!


Mar 20, 2013 3:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Venki2013 wrote:
First,India made grave error in diplomatic conduct. Issues involving foreign military personnel do not go along straight line logic that India follows. India should have treated this as “joint problem solving” issue. Not take unilateral decisions. It is not what you do. It is how you do that matters in diplomacy. Diplomacy is about problem solving, networking and building influences.

Second, even after 13 months no charge has been filed. No court has been arranged in India. “Law will take its course” may be logical but also hypocritical. What is the guarantee it would not take 13 years? If Indians are serious on delivering justice, they should act fast. If this is a serious issue, then India will have to act decisively so that justice can be served.

Third, while the marines have violated the SC order, going after the ambassador may sound populist,silly and reminds us of Iran embassy hostage situation. Fanning such sentiments, people in India could vent their anger and possibly attack the ambassador. India as a nation is bound by Vienna convention on treating diplomats. With regards to immunity his actions are covered by state duty not personal duty. Italy has to waive his immunity in writing. Waiver of immunity is very very serious business.

Mar 20, 2013 6:16pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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