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EU to put pressure on Ban Ki-moon over marines, says Bonino

Anti-piracy case a 'matter of fundamental principle'

13 February, 13:54
EU to put pressure on Ban Ki-moon over marines, says Bonino (see related) (ANSA) - Rome, February 13 - European Union countries have agreed to put further pressure on United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over two Italian marines facing terrorism charges in India for allegedly killing two fishermen after he deemed the matter a "bilateral issue", Foreign Minister Emma Bonino told parliament Thursday.

Earlier Bonino expressed "great bitterness and perplexity" over the position concerning servicemen Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been in India almost uninterruptedly for two years awaiting charges for the alleged murder of Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after reputedly opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

"It is not a question of a disagreement between two UN members but of a critical mass of countries raising a matter of fundamental principle," Bonino told parliament. "We now have the support of the European Union and NATO, the relationship is no longer limited to a bilateral dispute, the application of basic principles of the state of law is at stake," she said. On Monday prosecutors in India told the supreme court they intended to charge Latorre and Girone for murder under the terms of a severe anti-terrorism law but stressed they would not seek the death penalty in the event of a conviction.

Instead the pair could now face a maximum of 10 years in jail.

However, Italy insists that their prosecution under the so-called SUA act is unacceptable.

"They are neither terrorists nor pirates," Bonino said before and after the hearing. The supreme court is expected to rule on the use of the anti-terrorism law on February 17.

Meanwhile on Tuesday Italy "initiated contact" with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) over the lack of charges against the pair after two years in which their freedom has been restricted.

The OHCHR said it would assess the petition.

Responding to Bonino's statements to parliament Thursday, the president of the Senate defence committee, Nicola Latorre, said if the question of the marines was not resolved Italy's participation in future anti-piracy missions could be at stake.