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Italy to return 2 marine murder suspects to India

  • Associated Press
  • March 21, 2013 - 9:18 PM

ROME - Italy said it would return two marines to India by Friday to face murder charges in the shooting deaths of two fishermen, reversing a decision that escalated diplomatic tensions.

The government said Friday it decided to return the men after receiving written assurance from Indian authorities that their `'fundamental rights" would be respected. Friday had been the return date originally agreed upon when India permitted the pair to travel to Italy to vote in national elections last month.

Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone agreed to the decision and were to leave immediately and will live in the Italian embassy in New Delhi, officials said.

The move overturns a March 11 decision by the Italian Foreign Ministry that the marines would not go back because the decision to try them in India violated their rights.

The Indian Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice. The decision removed the case from the jurisdiction of the southern state of Kerala, near where the shooting took place.

The case had turned into a full-blown spat between India and Italy, with the Indian Supreme Court banning the Italian ambassador from leaving the country. Italy insisted that any restrictions on its ambassador's movements violated conventions on diplomatic relations.

The marines were part of a military security team on a cargo ship when they fired at a fishing boat in February 2012, killing the two fishermen. The marines said they mistook the fishing boat for a pirate craft.

India contends the shooting happened in Indian waters, while Italy has insisted the shooting happened in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and Italy should have jurisdiction.

© 2014 Star Tribune