M A I N   N E W S

Italian marines back in India
Delhi promises no arrest, no death penalty Khurshid denies any deal
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 22
A bitter diplomatic stand-off between India and Italy over the two Italian marines ended today with Rome sending them back to this country to face trial for the killing of two Indian fishermen after New Delhi’s assurance that they would not attract the death penalty.

Talking to the media, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid asserted that ‘no deal whatsoever’ was struck with Italy to ensure the return of the marines. “We always kept the channels of communication open…we kept alive the hope that marines would return.”

As the UPA leadership patted itself on the back after emerging triumphant in the row, Khurshid, earlier in the day, informed Parliament that the government has informed Rome that notwithstanding the pending proceedings in the marines’ case in the Supreme Court, the two navy men would not be liable for arrest if they returned to India within the time-frame laid down by the apex court. The four-week parole of the two accused-Massimilano Latoree and Salvatore Girone-expired tonight.

The two navy men reached New Delhi just a few hours before the expiry of the deadline for their return, accompanied by Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura. The Italian minister met Khurshid shortly after his arrival here and later stated that law on death penalty in his country was so strict that it had to obtain guarantee from India.

Khurshid stated that according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, the case of the two marines would not fall in the category of matters which attracted the death penalty, which is to say the rarest of rare cases. “Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard.’’

The minister said these clarifications would be placed before the apex court appropriately. “Following the clarification, we have a confirmation that the Italian government is arranging for the return of the two Italian marines within the time frame permitted by the Supreme Court.” He said he was happy that the trial of the marines would now proceed as per the directions of the apex court.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also welcomed Italy’s decision to send back the two marines, saying the integrity and dignity of the Indian judicial process has been upheld.

This brings to an end a forgettable chapter in relations between India and Italy. It all started with Italy informing India on March 11 that it would not send back the two marines, who had gone to their country to cast ballots in the February 24-25 elections after the apex court’s permission following an undertaking given by Italian envoy Daniele Mancini that they would return within four weeks.

The two marines had killed the two Indian fishermen early last year off the Kerala coast, mistaking them for pirates. Italy’s contention has been that the two navy personnel should be tried under international laws since the incident took place in international waters while India argues that they attract Indian laws because the fishermen were Indians and their killing also took place in Indian waters. The apex court also has ruled that India has the jurisdiction to try the case

The Supreme Court had taken a strong view of Rome’s decision not to send the two marines back, asking the authorities to restrain the envoy from leaving India. India subsequently made it clear to Italy that the latter was bound to honour the solemn commitment its envoy has made to the apex court to ensure the return of the marines within the permitted time period.

India is now expected to ask its Ambassador-designate to Italy Basant Gupta to take charge of his new assignment in Rome. The next hearing in the apex court in the marines’ case will be held on April two when it is expected to revoke its ban order against the Italian envoy.

Khurshid’s promise to Italy

  • The minister said Rome was informed that the two navy men would not be liable for arrest if they returned to India within the time frame set by SC
  • Case of the two marines would not fall in the category of matters which attracted the death penalty
  • Therefore, there need not be any apprehension
  • The four-week parole of the two accused expired on Friday night

Row was needed for assurance: Italy

Italy on Friday said that a diplomatic row with India over the marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen was “necessary” to make sure the men did not face the death penalty. “The situation is normalising,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told La Repubblica daily after Italy's surprise climbdown last night in the row that saw Indian Supreme Court ordering the Italian ambassador not to leave the country.





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