New Delhi

India repeats marines won't face death penalty

Italian anti-pirate guards on trial for alleged homicide

India repeats marines won't face death penalty

(By Christopher Livesay) New Delhi, April 9 - India's interior minister on Tuesday confirmed that the government would not seek the death penalty for two Italian marines being tried there for murder. Sushil Kumar Shinde cited section 34 C of India's 1962 Extradition Act, which allows the court to rule out the death penalty as a possible sentence. "The government has made an international commitment to Italy not to seek the death penalty, and it will be honored," Shinde told the Economic Times, an English-language Indian newspaper. Italian anti-pirate marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone 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. After a drawn-out diplomatic row, Italy agreed to hand the men over to Indian authorities last month despite contesting India's right to jurisdiction, given the incident took place in international waters. While there have been signs of improvements in recent weeks, relations between the two countries have frayed over the past year, prompting Italy to request independent third-party arbitration in the tangled affair. United Nations Secretary-General Ban-ki Moon said in Rome Tuesday that he hoped for a "harmonious and judicious" resolution "with dialogue". Ban said he discussed the "regrettable situation that involves two UN nations with Italian President Giorgio Napolitano this morning" and was due to discuss it again with outgoing Premier and interim Foreign Minister Mario Monti. Last month Monti stepped in to fill the shoes of Giulio Terzi who resigned as foreign minister over the diplomatic tug-of-war with India. Terzi's decision came shortly after Italy climbed down after earlier reneging on a pledge to send the marines back to India following a four-week parole to vote in the February 24-25 general election. The pair had previously returned from a Christmas break, honouring Italy's pledge, solemnly filed by Ambassador Daniele Mancini. During the tug-of-war following the refusal to send the pair back the second time, Indian airports were alerted not to let Mancini out of the country. That ban has since been lifted. But while diplomatic pressures have eased, political ones in Rome have been exacerbated. In his resignation announcement before parliament, Terzi complained that the government went against his wishes to keep the marines in Italy. Monti, who denied the charge, accused Terzi of trying to curry favor with the center-right People of Freedom (PdL) party of Silvio Berlusconi for his own future political ambitions. The premier also told parliament that relations with key trade allies in the developing world were on the line but denied that economics was a factor in the decision-making process. Monti said that Italy had faced "measures" from India and fellow BRICS countries as a consequence for choosing not to return the marines to face trial. "We had word from Foreign Undersecretary Staffan De Mistura that the possibility of measures being taken against Italy were being considered," Monti said. BRICS, an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, is an influential association of emerging national economies. "There were serious and objective risks that Italy would find itself isolated in the international community," if it had failed to ensure the pair returned to India, Monti said. "It would have opened a crisis of serious proportions with India".

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