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De Mistura says no question of death penalty for marines

Capital punishment 'totally excluded' says envoy to India

09 January, 15:36
De Mistura says no question of death penalty for marines (ANSA) - New Delhi, January 9 - There is no question that two Italian marines, accused of murdering two Indian fishermen in 2012, could face the death penalty in India, Italian government envoy Staffan De Mistura said Thursday.

He repeated assurances made earlier by India's foreign affairs minister, reiterating a longstanding guarantee from India that the death penalty will not be requested in the controversial case.

"The question of applying the death penalty to the marines has long been totally excluded, both in past statements by Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid," and more recent comments, said De Mistura.

Khurshid repeated his assurances in an interview aired Thursday on the CNN-IBM network, building on guarantees previously given by the Indian government.

Lawyers representing the marines had a hearing in their trial in New Delhi postponed Wednesday, amid fears that prosecutors wanted to press for capital punishment. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of killing Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki on February 15, 2012, when the marines allegedly opened fire on their fishing trawler from the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie. The shooting occurred just off the coast of Kerala in southern India, near traditional Indian fishing grounds in the Laccadive Sea. The incident sparked a diplomatic row between the governments of India and Italy, stemming from a conflict of opinions over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity.

Last spring, Italy received assurances that the marines would not face the death penalty before it returned the pair to India from their Italian homes where they had enjoyed an extended Christmas break.