New Delhi

Indian premier 'happy' about marines return

'Dignity of due process upheld' says Singh

Indian premier 'happy' about marines return

New Delhi, March 22 - Indian Premier Manmohan Singh said Friday he was "happy" with Italy's surprise decision to return two anti-piracy marines accused of killing two fishermen to trial in India after a diplomatic tug-of-war escalated between the two countries. "I welcome the return of the Italian marines, which took place according to directives issued by the Indian Supreme Court and in coherence with the dignity of due process in India," Singh told journalists. Italy promised the men would go back after last month's election leave as they did after a Christmas break but did not honour the pledge, angering India who stopped the Italian ambassador from leaving the country. Singh had said Italy's refusal to honour the pledge to turn over the two men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, "cast a shadow" over the two countries' relations. On Thursday evening Italy's government said it had asked and obtained from the Indian authorities written guarantees of the treatment and the recognition of the marines' fundamental rights as recognized by international law. India's justice minister earlier on Thursday said the pair had until Friday to return to the Asian nation, otherwise the affair would escalate further. The two marines had been held in India since February 2012 after a shooting incident in international waters in which two Indian fishermen, Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki, were killed. Italy has always denied that India has jurisdiction over the case, as it took place in international waters. As a sign of goodwill, the two marines were allowed to return to Italy to spend Christmas with their families and - after returning to India as agreed between the two governments - were allowed back to Italy again to vote in February elections, after which they did not return.

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