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Indian anti-terror police petition over marines postponed

Hearing set for March 31 pending Supreme Court ruling

25 February, 12:53
Indian anti-terror police petition over marines postponed (see related story) (ANSA) - New Delhi, February 25 - A court in New Delhi on Tuesday postponed examination of a request by India's anti-terrorism police to take charge of the case two Italian marines facing trial for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012 pending a decision by the supreme court.

The NIA police unit asked the judges to be able to take charge of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone under the terms of a 2013 ruling by India's top court concerning the creation of a special tribunal for their trial.

However the defence team objected on grounds that the servicemen had still not been formally charged and that the supreme court had yet to rule on a petition by Italy against use of a harsh anti-terrorism law, the so-called SUA Act, in the prosecution.

Consequently, the New Delhi tribunal postponed its examination of the matter until March 31. On Monday India's prosecutor general G. E. Vahanvati told the supreme court that he was in favour of dropping use of SUA Act but requested that the NIA police unit still conduct the prosecution.

The defence team objected to this, arguing that NIA could only be involved in the event of prosecution under the terms of the controversial anti-terrorism, anti-piracy law.

This prompted the supreme court judge to adjourn proceedings and set a new hearing for two weeks' time.

Latorre and Girone are accused of allegedly killing fishermen 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. The two marines have been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges.

The case has led to a major diplomatic row between the two countries and rallying of the international community in Italy's support.