Italian 'killer' marines to be tried by special court

The Supreme Court today ruled that a special court should be set up to try the case of two Italian marines being tried for shooting dead two Indian fishermen while on guard duty aboard an oil tanker.

The court finally turned down the appeal that the marines should be tried on home soil in Italy as they were in international waters when the incident occurred off the coast of Kerala in February last year.

"The case is transferred to a special court. The state of Kerala has no jurisdiction," said a ruling from a two-judge bench comprising chief justice Altamas Kabir and Jasti Chelameswar.

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were granted special permission to return home to Italy for Christmas but have since returned to India.

Italy has mounted strong diplomatic pressure to have the marines repatriated, but to no avail.

The sailors, members of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie, say they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

Most observers in India are convinced that the guards were simply trigger-happy – it would be difficult to mistake unarmed fishermen on a low-powered boat for pirates, unless they shot first and thought later.

Armed guards are increasingly deployed on cargo ships and tankers in the Indian Ocean to tackle the threat posed by Somali pirates, who often hold ships and crews hostage for months demanding multi-million-dollar ransoms.