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India's high court orders two-week delay on Italians marines

Pair could face death penalty in shootings of fishermen in 2012

20 January, 10:55
India's high court orders two-week delay on Italians marines (ANSA) - New Delhi, January 20 - India's Supreme Court on Monday ordered its government to find a solution within two weeks to the situation involving two Italian marines who may be facing the death penalty there for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen almost two years ago. Following a hearing that lasted just 10 minutes, the judges asked India's government to "reconcile the conflict of opinion within the administration" in time for another hearing on February 3.

Lawyers for the two Italians said they were frustrated by yet another delay in the case that dates to February 2012.

Last Friday, Italian Premier Enrico Letta vowed to take measures at an "international level" to keep the marines from facing the death penalty after the Indian government previously promised that capital punishment would not be invoked.

The premier added he "was happy with the solidarity expressed by the European Union and a plan to send an Italian House delegation to New Delhi".

In a statement last Friday, Letta's government reiterated its "firm expectation that the Indian government would keep its assurances...that the case in question does not fall under anti-piracy norms (that include capital punishment as a possible sentence)".

Italian Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of killing fishermen 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.

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

The Italian petition to the Indian Supreme Court said the pair should be released due to the long delays in their trial.