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EU 'must intervene' in event of death penalty for marines

Capital punishment 'totally unacceptable,' Tajani says

14 January, 14:26
EU 'must intervene' in event of death penalty for marines (ANSA) - Rome, January 14 - The European Union (EU) could not fail to intervene in the event of a request for the death penalty against two Italian marines on trial in India for allegedly killing two fishermen there, European Commission (EC) Vice-President Antonio Tajani said Tuesday.

Speaking on Italian radio, Tajani said he had written to EC President Jose' Manuel Barroso proposing a suspension of free-trade negotiations with India and the renegotiation of favourable tariffs should India renege on its promise not to apply the death penalty to Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone. The marines are accused of killing Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler from the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie during an anti-piracy mission off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.

On Friday Indian newspaper The Hindustan Times reported that India's anti-terrorist National Investigation Agency (NIA) was pressing to apply a severe 2002 law designed to fight terrorism in international waters against the marines that includes the possibility of capital punishment.

The alleged development comes despite previous reassurances by the Indian government that the marines would not face death. "The death penalty goes against all EU principles, Europe was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize partly for its opposition to the death penalty and so a choice such as this, against two marines engaged in anti-piracy operations, would be totally unacceptable," said Tajani, the European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.

Indian news agency PTI has reported that the Indian interior minister would probably decide how the NIA is to proceed "over the next few days". The case has sparked a diplomatic row between the governments of India and Italy, stemming from a conflict of opinions over legal jurisdiction and functional immunity.