Italy mounts pressure over 'killer' marines, summons envoys

19 February 2014

Mounting pressure on India for the repatriation of the two Italian marines facing trial for killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala, Italy on Tuesday called its Ambassador Daniele Mancini to Rome for consultations, while also summoning his Indian counterpart in Italy Basant Kumar Gupta.

Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino went so far as to insult the Indian juridical system, slamming the ''manifest inability of the Indian judicial authorities in handling the case''.

The two Italian marines, Massimilliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, have been charged by Indian authorities under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA) which carries a maximum penalty of death.

The Indian government has repeatedly assured Italy that the death penalty will not be applied in this case, but Rome is adamant on their return.

The Italian government and the accused duo have challenged the application of the law in the Supreme Court, saying that the marines are not pirates and invoking the law is tantamount to calling Italy a terrorist state.

India's Ambassador Gupta, summoned by the secretary-general of Italy's foreign ministry Michele Valensise, was told the case ''shows an Indian desire to draw out the affair beyond all limits''. He also called India's behaviour 'ambiguous and unreliable'.

Italy has lodged a strong protest with India for trying the Italian marines under (SUA). Last week, Italy also moved the United Nations against India, calling the application of the SUA act 'unacceptable'.

This is only the latest twist in the case where the two marines, aboard the Italian ship Enrica Lexie, shot two unarmed Indian fishermen on 15 February 2012 off the coast of Kerala. The trigger-happy marines' only defence is that they mistook the low-powered fishing smack for a pirate vessel.

Though Italy insists that the incident took place in international waters, Indian authorities have dismissed this claim. Italy has also gone so far as to claim diplomatic status for its soldiers.

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