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Indian foreign minister slams handling of Italian marines

Khurshid calls use of anti-terrorism law wrong

15 January, 16:47
Indian foreign minister slams handling of Italian marines (see related) (ANSA) - New Delhi, January 15 - The Indian foreign minister on Wednesday said it was wrong to prosecute two Italian marines under a severe anti-terrorism law that would impose the death penalty if they are found guilty of homicide.

"The two Italian marines may have gone overboard in their functions, but they are not terrorists," Salman Khurshid told India's NDTV.

Khurshid blamed India's ex-undersecretary of the interior ministry, R.K. Shinde, for the "disaster" created by using India's anti-terrorist National Investigation Agency (NIA) to investigate, raising the prospect of applying the death-penalty law. Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of killing Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.

"We should have simply tried them and told the Italians that their marines either were or were not guilty," Khurshid said, adding that it was "embarrassing" that there were no charges yet filed two years after the original incident.

"But it is the complexity of our system that makes it so that we cannot obtain a quick trial," Khurshid went on. Khurshid in the past has written in the name of the Indian government assuring the Italian government that the marines were not among "the extremely rare cases" in India that could face the death penalty if convicted.

Nevertheless India's NIA is reportedly seeking to prosecute them under a 2002 anti-terrorism law carrying the possibility of capital punishment.

Italy's appeal to the Indian Supreme Court to save the two Italian marines from being prosecuted under the law will be examined Monday, Indian judicial sources told ANSA on Wednesday.

The decision how to bring the marines to trial is up to the Indian interior ministry, which has yet to make an official pronouncement.