* India Supreme Court delays decision on Italian marines
* Italy "strongly disappointed" over court delay
* Italian sailors accused of killing two fishermen
(Adds court decision to delay verdict, Rome comment)
ROME, Dec 14 Italy expressed "strong
disappointment" on Friday that India's Supreme Court had delayed
a decision on where two Italian marines accused of killing two
fishermen would face trial.
The sailors, members of a military security team protecting
the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks, fired on a
fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft off Kerala in
February, killing two.
"The Italian government expresses strong disappointment and
profound bitterness for the delay, three months after court
arguments have ended," Rome said in a statement on Friday.
Italy has challenged in the New Delhi Supreme Court India's
right to try the sailors, saying the shooting took place in
international waters, outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
Indian authorities accuse the sailors of killing unarmed
fishermen in a "contiguous zone" where Indian law applies.
Italy summoned the Indian ambassador to urge India's Supreme
Court to reach a decision before the year-end Christmas holiday.
Separately, the sailors filed a petition on Friday with the
Kerala high court seeking permission to return temporarily to
Italy for Christmas. They are out on bail in the Indian state
but are not allowed to leave the country.
The Kerala court will consider their petition on Tuesday,
the counsel for the sailors, P. Vijaya Bhanu, told Reuters. The
Italian government has given an undertaking the marines would be
in its custody during their stay and would take responsibility
for their return to India.
In New Delhi, prosecutors and the sailors' defence lawyers
said the case was unlikely to be heard before Jan. 2 at the
The case has soured relations between Italy and India, with
Rome insisting Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone should
be tried at home.
Italy petitioned India's Supreme Court after the Kerala High
Court held the marines were liable to be tried under Indian law.
In India, states level judiciaries are responsible for law and
order on their territory.
(Reporting by Catherine Hornby in Rome, Antonella Ciancio in
Milan and D. Jose in Kerala; Writing by Catherine Hornby and
Annie Banerji; Editing by Michael Roddy)