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Top Indian court agrees to consider marines appeal

Suspends proceedings, while looks at petition against NIA

28 March, 10:48
Top Indian court agrees to consider marines appeal (ANSA) - New Delhi, March 28 - India's Supreme Court on Friday agreed to consider an appeal against NIA anti-terrorism prosecutors handling the case of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen during an anti-piracy mission in 2012. The top court suspended the start of a trial at a special court and said it will look at Italy's petition in a hearing in four weeks. In the petition, Italy also requested that marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone be allowed to return home and that the whole case be dropped.

The 50-page appeal petition argues that allowing the NIA to probe the case is not valid because their jurisdiction only extends to certain laws, such as suppression of piracy, which do not apply to the Italian sailors.

Latorre and Girone are accused of killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and reportedly opening fire on their fishing trawler.

The incident occurred while the marines were guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012.

The two marines have been living and working at the Italian embassy in India pending charges.

Rome has protested a long series of delays in the case, which has caused a deep diplomatic schism between the countries.

It also successfully fought to ensure New Delhi take the death penalty off the table and against the application of a severe anti-terrorism, anti-piracy law, which it said would have equated Italy with a terrorist state.

Rome is seeking international arbitration in the case, which it argues is not India's jurisdiction as the incident took place outside the country's territorial waters.

It also says the marines should be exempt from prosecution in Indian because they are servicemen who were working on an anti-piracy mission.

Premier Matteo Renzi on his appointment last month called the case was "absurd and shocking".

He said on Thursday that he had called on United States President Barack Obama to support Italy over the marines during a meeting between the leaders in Rome.

The Italian government's special envoy on the case Staffan de Mistura has argued that if the marines must face trial, it should be in Italy.

De Mistura said this week that if a trial starts, Italy will snub the proceedings.

Italy has won the backing of the European Union, which has said the case endangers international anti-piracy operations.