NEW DELHI Feb 10 India's Supreme Court will
hold a hearing next week on whether two Italian marines accused
of killing two Indian fishermen can be charged under a strict
anti-piracy law, in a case that has damaged ties between the two
India's government has given its approval to an
investigation agency to charge the sailors under its maritime
security law, but said it would not seek the death penalty if
they were found guilty.
Italy strongly opposes India invoking the law, arguing that
it would equate to treating the men as terrorists.
"The charge proposed by the Indian authorities is
unacceptable," Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said in a
tweet after Monday's hearing. "We totally reject the use of the
concept of terrorism. Italy and the EU will respond."
The Supreme Court said on Monday it would hold a hearing on
Feb. 18 to decide how the case should proceed, but it was
uncertain whether a ruling would be made the same day.
The marines, part of a military security team protecting a
cargo ship, say they mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired
warning shots into the water during the incident in February
2012 off the coast of India's southern state of Kerala.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone deny killing
anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat. They are on bail
but cannot leave India.
The Italian government approached India's Supreme Court last
month to demand that the marines be allowed to return home,
given that charges are yet to be filed two years after the
alleged incident. It also sought to block use of the anti-piracy
(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty and Shyamantha Asokan, Editing
by Angus MacSwan and Simon Cameron-Moore)