NEW DELHI — In a reversal, India's government told the Supreme Court on Monday that it will not use a severe anti-piracy law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.
Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati told the court that the government has decided that the law, which carries the death penalty, will not apply in the case.
India had previously ruled out a death penalty but said it would still prosecute the marines under the anti-piracy law.
The Italian government strongly protested that position and sought U.N. and European Union intervention in easing the deadlock.
The Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were providing security aboard a cargo ship in February 2012 when they opened fire on a fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. The marines are on bail pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.
The case has sparked a bitter row between the two nations. Last week, Italy recalled its ambassador to India to protest delays in filing charges against the marines.
Italy also has fought India's insistence on prosecuting the marines, saying the shooting happened in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and thus Italy, not India, should have jurisdiction.
India's Home Ministry has entrusted the investigation to an anti-terrorism agency. The court said Monday that it would decide whether the agency would carry out the investigation at the next hearing of the case three weeks from now.
The Indian attorney general has blamed delays in the case on witnesses from the cargo ship failing to return to India to give evidence.