Rome

Napolitano eager to welcome home marines held in India

Says 'all institutions' played part in getting two-week permit

Napolitano eager to welcome home marines held in India

Rome, December 20 - Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Thursday said he was looking forward to welcoming home the two Italian marines who have been held in India on murder charges since February. ''I hope to see you soon in the homeland,'' Napolitano told the two marines via videoconference. ''In this effort all of [Italy's] institutions played a part,'' the head of state added, referring to a two-week permit to leave India and pass the holidays in Italy that the marines were granted earlier Thursday by the Indian courts. The marines, Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, have been at the center of a diplomatic row between Italy and India after they allegedly shot fishermen Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki during an international anti-piracy mission off the southern Indian coast in February. The pair, who allegedly mistook the fishermen for pirates and face charges that include homicide, were released from detention on bail in June, but were confined to Indian territory. Italy believes it should have jurisdiction over the case as it took place aboard an Italian merchant ship that the marines were guarding. Rome also argues that the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

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