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Germany backs Italy over case of marines in India

'Unjustified delay' in handling of case, says The Hindu

04 February, 15:49
Germany backs Italy over case of marines in India (ANSA) - New Delhi, February 4 - Just prior to German President Joachim Guack's visit to India on Tuesday, Germany's Ambassador to New Delhi Michael Steiner expressed support for Italy as it struggles with a diplomatic crisis involving the trial of two of its marines in the country.

In meeting with journalists to outline the presidential visit, Steiner said that a smooth handling of the case is in the interest of Italy, India and the European Union (EU). ''Italy is part of the EU so we are following the case closely. It is on one hand a bilateral issue, but we think it is in the mutual interest of India, Italy and the EU to solve it smoothly, considering it has been going on for two years (now),'' he said. The German envoy stressed that ''this issue has also a bearing on the global fight against piracy, to which the EU is strongly committed''.

The government in New Delhi has given mixed signals about whether or not to use an anti-piracy law that carries the death penalty against Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of killing two Indian fishermen 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.

Italy has been petitioning the Indian Supreme Court to rule out the harsh law against gaining the support of the European Union, which has threatened economic consequences. India has shown ''unjustified delay'' in handling the case of the two marines, who were on an anti-piracy mission at the time of the shooting, Indian daily the Hindi said in an editorial Tuesday.

An Indian court postponed on Monday for another week a long-awaited ruling over how authorities should proceed against the marines.

Staffan De Mistura, Italy's special envoy assigned to the case, told ANSA ''the prosecution can no longer play with time.

We have calculated with our lawyer 25 judicial postponements without one piece of documentation''. Italy had previously been given assurances from India's Foreign Ministry that the pair would not face the death penalty.

In commenting on the case, The Indian Express reported Tuesday that of the three ministries involved, the foreign and justice ministries do not support using the anti-piracy law against the marines, while the interior ministry wants it to be applied.

Italian Defense Minister Mario Mauro told Radio Anch'io on Tuesday that ''the Indian justice system is violating the rights of the two marines, since for the past two years they have been entirely willing to undergo any and all investigations. They should now be allowed to return home to Italy and follow the trial from here. This is an issue that concerns all Italy''.