| THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India Dec 16 Italy's
Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paolo on Sunday visited two
Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the coast
of southern India, stepping up pressure to allow the men home
for Christmas after the case flared into a diplomatic spat.
The sailors, members of a military security team protecting
the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks, open fired on a
fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft off the southern
state of Kerala in February. The killings of the unarmed
fishermen triggered outrage in India.
Earlier in the week, Italy summoned India's ambassador in
Rome and expressed "strong disappointment" that India's Supreme
Court had delayed a decision on which country the two marines
should be tried in.
Italy wants the Supreme Court to rule that the shooting took
place in international waters, outside India' jurisdiction. That
would open the way for the marines to be tried in Italy, where
their case has become a national cause celebre.
The two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone,
have filed a petition with Kerala's High Court, seeking
permission to return to Italy for two weeks over Christmas.
Latorre and Girone are facing murder charges at the Kerala
court, which is due to decide on their request on Tuesday.
"Nobody more than India knows the values of festivities. For
us Christmas is our biggest festivity. We are confident that the
Indian people will understand this," Di Paolo told reporters in
the port city of Kochi, where the marines are on bail.
"We have respect in the Supreme Court of India. We are
confident that the case will be decided according to
international laws," Di Paolo said, accompanied by Italy's
ambassador to India.
Di Paolo arrived in Kochi on Saturday from Afghanistan. He
is expected to return to Italy from Kerala without meeting
senior Indian officials.
(Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Michael Perry)