ROME Two Italian marines facing a murder trial in India for killing two fishermen returned there on Thursday after being allowed to spend Christmas in Italy, Rome airport officials said.
While in Italy, they were invited to the presidential palace and embraced by head of state Giorgio Napolitano, reflecting a feeling among many Italians that they have been unjustly detained.
Several government ministers and high-ranking military officials also met marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone while they were in Italy.
The two sailors, part of a team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie, are accused of shooting two fishermen they say they mistook for pirates off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February.
The incident has caused a serious diplomatic dispute between Italy and India, which have traditionally had good relations.
Italy has taken the case to India's supreme court, saying the shooting took place in international waters and was outside the jurisdiction of Indian courts.
The pair were required to hand over 60 million rupees ($1.1 million) as a guarantee to the court before leaving the country.
(Reporting by Antonella Cinelli; Writing by Catherine Hornby; Editing by Alison Williams)