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Italy demands marines release in Indian Supreme Court appeal

Bid to save pair from death penalty trial examined Monday

15 January, 13:27
Italy demands marines release in Indian Supreme Court appeal (ANSA) - Jerusalem, January 15 - Italy has demanded India release two marines on trial for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012 in an appeal to the Supreme Court in New Delhi that is set to be heard on Monday, judicial sources said Wednesday.

Italy has appealed to the Supreme Court amid fears that India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) intends to prosecute the pair under a 2002 anti-terrorism law carrying the possibility of capital punishment, despite previous reassurances from the Indian government that the marines would not face the death penalty.

The Italian petition to the Supreme Court said the pair, who were first detained in February 2012, should be released due to the long delays in their trial.

It demanded Indian magistrates "immediately present charges without using the anti-terrorism law," and proposed "authorizing the marines to return to Italy to wait out the time (required) for Indian trial," the sources said.

Italy called "the behaviour" of Indian investigators and prosecutors "an offense to the highest court", because the Supreme Court's recommendations in the case had been disregarded over the last year. The terrorism act was not among the laws recommended by the Supreme Court in this case.

The petition also said using the law in the marines' case has already been rejected by a high court in Kerala.

It complained that it is unclear whether the investigation has been concluded, adding that charges have yet to be filed and the trial has not yet begun. 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.

A delegation of Italian MPs plan to travel to India to lend support to the case of the marines. "I think it could be an important and fruitful visit. Of course it would be better if there was also co-ordination with the (Italian) government," said Lower House Speaker Laura Boldrini on Wednesday during a visit in Jerusalem.

"In any case, it doesn't seem to me that the visit has the goal of irritating India. On the contrary, it is meant to be a way for all the groups to plead the same cause together," Boldrini added.

The possibility of the death penalty has sparked an international outcry, with European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani on Tuesday threatening that the EU could stop free trade negotiations with India.