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Italian marines 'must not be tried in India'

Pinotti says participation in anti-piracy missions should go on

27 February, 12:57
Italian marines 'must not be tried in India' (ANSA) - Rome, February 27 - Two Italian marines being held in India, so far without charge, for allegedly killing two fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012 "must not be tried" there, Italy's Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti told parliament on Thursday.

"The country must be united as this gives us force," said Pinotti. "The most important and serious matter" concerned the fact that Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre should not be tried in India as they were operating in international waters, she added. "This is Italy's position," she said. Pinotti also told the Senate that the country must continue to participate in international anti-piracy missions because the international community "is supporting us" in the marines' case by putting pressure on New Delhi.

"Suspending participation would be seen as a threat to our allies and not to India," said the defence minister after calls from some quarters for Italy to stop its involvement in anti-piracy operations.

Meanwhile India's Interior Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde justified the government's decision to drop terrorism charges against the marines under a severe 2002 anti-piracy law, the so-called SUA Act, saying this was usually applied in cases of militant attacks.

"SUA (Suppression of Unlawful Act) is usually applied for terrorists and if you see the reports, as well the opinion of jurists and top civil servants, the Italian marines case doesn't come under SUA," Shinde told media on Wednesday.

On Monday India's prosecutor general G. E. Vahanvati told the supreme court that he was in favour of dropping use of SUA in the case but requested that the NIA anti-terrorism police unit still conduct the prosecution.

The defence team objected to this on grounds that NIA could only be involved in the event of prosecution under SUA.

The judge consequently adjourned 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.

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