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India has 'hit limit' over Italian marines, says minister

'Ambiguous, unreliable behaviour' by authorities in New Delhi

18 February, 11:31
India has 'hit limit' over Italian marines, says minister (ANSA) - Rome, February 18 - The Indian authorities have hit "the limit" with the umpteenth delay by the supreme court in New Delhi of a ruling on the case of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Emma Bonino recalled Italy's ambassador to New Delhi to Rome for "consultations" and to show Rome's bitterness at the handling of the marines, who have still not been charged two years after the incident took place "This measure is the limit and what's even bigger is the indignation that has hit the whole nation and cannot fail to spread to the entire international community," said Mauro. "There is no justice in this case. We are faced with ambiguous, unreliable behaviour on the part of the Indian authorities". 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. The marines have been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges in the case that has stressed relations between India and Italy.

Tuesday's supreme court hearing was set to rule on whether to prosecute the marines on the basis of a harsh anti-terrorism, anti-piracy law.

The request for the marines to be prosecuted with this law caused outrage here, with Rome saying it equates Italy to being a terrorist state. The European Union is backing Italy and has said the case threatens the future of anti-piracy operations.

As a result, there was speculation India's justice ministry would bow to the pressure and choose to proceed under the country's penal code rather than the SUA law, the country's tough interpretation of an international treaty against terrorism and piracy framed after the infamous 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking.

The supreme court said Tuesday, however, that it was adjourning proceedings until February 24 to give the government time to give a written response about whether to apply the SUA law.