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'Constant pressure' on India marines case says Ashton

Seeking 'mutually satisfactory solution' says EU foreing chief

04 February, 18:27
'Constant pressure' on India marines case says Ashton (ANSA) - Rome, February 4 - European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton on Tuesday vowed to keep up pressure on India to resolve the case of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen two years ago.

"I will continue to avail myself of all the diplomatic channels at my disposal to exert constant pressure on my Indian interlocutors in order to achieve a mutually satisfactory solution," Ashton wrote to European Parliament deputy Speakers Gianni Pittella and Roberta Angelilli.

Earlier Tuesday German Ambassador to New Delhi Michael Steiner expressed support for Rome in the case, which has caused tensions between India and Italy.

Meeting journalists to outline the presidential visit, Steiner said that a smooth handling of the case is in the interest of Italy, India and the EU. "Italy is part of the EU so we are following the case closely. It is on one hand a bilateral issue, but we think it is in the mutual interest of India, Italy and the EU to solve it smoothly, considering it has been going on for two years (now)," he said. The German envoy stressed that "this issue has also a bearing on the global fight against piracy, to which the EU is strongly committed".

The government in New Delhi has given mixed signals about whether or not to use an anti-piracy law that carries the death penalty against Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of killing two Indian fishermen 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 has been petitioning the Indian Supreme Court to rule out the harsh law against gaining the support of the EU, which has threatened economic consequences. India has shown "unjustified delay" in handling the case of the two marines, who were on an anti-piracy mission at the time of the shooting, Indian daily the Hindi said in an editorial Tuesday.

An Indian court postponed on Monday for another week a long-awaited ruling over how authorities should proceed against the marines.

Staffan De Mistura, Italy's special envoy assigned to the case, told ANSA "the prosecution can no longer play with time.

We have calculated with our lawyer 25 judicial postponements without one piece of documentation". Italy had previously been given assurances from India's Foreign Ministry that the pair would not face the death penalty.

In commenting on the case, The Indian Express reported Tuesday that of the three ministries involved, the foreign and justice ministries do not support using the anti-piracy law against the marines, while the interior ministry wants it to be applied.

Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro told Italian radio on Tuesday that "the Indian justice system is violating the rights of the two marines, since for the past two years they have been entirely willing to undergo any and all investigations. They should now be allowed to return home to Italy and follow the trial from here. This is an issue that concerns all Italy".