Italy scorns Indian decision to try marines with anti-piracy law

ROME Sat Feb 8, 2014 2:36pm EST

Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in the southern Indian city of Kochi January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Sivaram V

Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in the southern Indian city of Kochi January 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V

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ROME (Reuters) - Rome harshly criticized an Indian decision to try two Italian marines accused of killing two fisherman under an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act, in a case that has strained relations between the two countries.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, part of a military security team protecting a cargo ship off the coast of the southern state of Kerala, say they thought the fishermen were pirates and fired shots to warn them off in February 2012.

The case has become a sensitive political issue in both countries. In India, supporters of harsh penalties for the marines have marched on the streets, while in Rome the lights illuminating the Colosseum were turned off last year in a protest demanding the two be allowed to return home.

On Friday, India's attorney general said the Italians would be tried under an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act that provides for capital punishment, but that death sentences would be excluded as a possible sentence.

Italy's justice minister responded by saying the Rome government would fight the use of the law in all ways possible.

"Certain indications that come from New Delhi about the legal proceedings against our marines leave me dumbfounded and outraged," Justice Minister Emma Bonino said in a statement, adding that a decision to use the treaty would be fought in court "in the strongest manner".

"Our commitment to bring home Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone is stronger than ever."

Charges have yet to be filed against the two, partly due to confusion as to what law the men should be prosecuted under. They are on bail but cannot leave India.

(Reporting by Naomi O'Leary; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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