New Delhi

India marines to be tried by normal court

Anti-terrorist unit on the case, death penalty back on the table

India marines to be tried by normal court

New Delhi, April 5 - Two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen will be tried by a normal court that regularly adjudicates murder cases, and not a special court only giving sentences up to seven years, Indian Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar said Friday. A new probe is now in the hands of India's anti-terrorist National Investigation Agency (NIA), officials told ANSA Friday. An anti-terrorist inspector is on the case and the death penalty is possible, they said. "Inspector general P.V. Rama Sastry is in charge now," a NIA spokesman told ANSA. Foreign Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told ANSA that NIA would restart the probe from the initial charges, which did not rule out the death penalty. There have been conflicting reports this week about a new probe by the Indian secret service and the powers of the court. On Wednesday New Delhi said there was "nothing official" in reports about a special court which could only hand down limited sentences or the investigating body. Italy returned the marines to India after reportedly receiving assurances they would not face the death penalty, after a diplomatic tussle in which the Italian ambassador was prevented from leaving India and the Italian foreign minister eventually resigned. On Monday, reports said the case had been reassigned from local authorities to the NIA, which was set up after the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai to combat national-security threats. Italian officials are closely watching developments in the case, which surrounds Italian anti-pirate marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are in India on charges of shooting and killing fishermen Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates while guarding a mercantile ship off the Kerala coast in February 2012. Despite last week's controversial resignation of Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi, accused by outgoing Premier Mario Monti of having an eye to a political career on the centre right, diplomatic tempers seemed to have cooled after Italy climbed down after earlier reneging on a pledge to send the men back. following a four-week parole to vote in the February 24-25 general election. The pair had previously returned from a Christmas break. On Wednesday a spokesman from the Indian foreign ministry called the case "one of a kind" and "obviously very delicate". "We know quite well that the (Indian) Supreme Court expects us to quickly put together a special tribunal. We are working on it, and we will be ready for the next hearing scheduled April 16," said Syed Akbaruddin. He also added that the new Indian ambassador to Italy, Ranjit Gupta, is scheduled to be instated "by the end of the month". Gupta was supposed to assume the post in January, but the government opted to suspend the transition amid tensions over the case of the Italian marines.

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