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Marines in India 'not terrorists or pirates', says Bonino

Letta reiterates commitment to bringing pair home

06 February, 12:44
Marines in India 'not terrorists or pirates', says Bonino (ANSA) - Djibouti, February 6 - Two Italian marines facing a trial in India for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012 "are neither terrorists nor pirates", Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said Thursday.

Her comments come ahead of an expected ruling on Monday by the Indian Supreme Court in New Delhi on a petition by the Italian government to rule out use of a harsh anti-terrorism law in prosecuting servicemen Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre and for them to be allowed to return to Italy.

Rome argues that prosecuting them under the so-called Sua Act de facto equates the incident with a terrorist act.

The marines are 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 in international waters off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.

Under the anti-terrorism law Girone and Latorre could face the death penalty in the event of a guilty verdict, although on Wednesday Indian media reported that the Indian interior minister had instructed the attorney general's office not to press for capital punishment.

Bonino stressed the importance of teamwork in efforts to repatriate the marines. "It is necessary to act coherently and in a disciplined manner with single messages," she said, adding that this approach has won Italy support from the European Union and the United States.

"This was not a given, as India has profound relations with many European countries," she said. Premier Enrico Letta, meanwhile, reiterated his commitment to bringing the servicemen home.

"From my window (in the premier's office) I can read the banner on the facade of the building that houses (newspaper) Il Tempo: 'Let's bring the marines home'," he wrote in a letter to the daily, published Thursday.

"It is a strong and legitimate desire. Above all, it is a commitment of our government," continued Letta.