New Delhi

Marines to be probed by India anti-terrorism police

Death penalty possible

Marines to be probed by India anti-terrorism police

(By Denis Greenan). New Delhi, April 26 - India's anti-terrorism police will lead a fresh probe into two Italian marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen last year after the supreme court left the matter up to the government. The court ruling to let the government decide means that anti-pirate marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will be investigated by the anti-terrorism National Investigation Agency (NIA), and not the criminal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Italy contested the decision, which could affect whether the marines face a possible death sentence if convicted. On April 16 Italy presented an affidavit challenging a lower-court decision to assign the case to the NIA, which placed the investigation under a severe 2002 law designed to fight terrorism in international waters. The 2002 anti-terrorism law calls for capital punishment in the case of conviction for homicide. Latorre and Girone are in India on charges of shooting and killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates while guarding a merchant ship off the Kerala coast in February 2012. After almost a year in detention in India, the men were allowed back to Italy twice before Rome, in a climbdown, agreed to definitively hand them back to Indian authorities last month despite contesting India's right to jurisdiction, given the incident took place in international waters. India briefly stopped the Italian ambassador leaving the country as the row escalated before Italy embarrassingly reversed a refusal to honour a pledge to send the men back after a trip home to vote in the February general election. They had previously returned, and Italy won praise for keeping its promise, after a Christmas break. CASE SPLIT MONTI GOVT. The issue of sending the marines back split the outgoing Italian government with Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi quitting in a shock move and Premier Mario Monti accusing him of having ulterior motives. Terzi resigned on March 26, saying he had not been given a fair hearing before the government's decision to return the pair. Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola disagreed with Terzi, saying the government had been right to act as it did. Terzi, 66, a former ambassador to the UN, Israel and Washington, said he was resigning "out of disagreement with the (government's) decision to send the marines back to India". "My reservations had no impact and the decision was not mine," Terzi told parliament. "My voice went unheard". Di Paola, on the other hand, shrugged off calls to resign, saying he would not "abandon" the marines. "I know what Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, looking me in the eye, said on the night of March 21: 'Don't abandon us'. I won't abandon the ship," Di Paola told parliament. Monti said he was "stunned" by Terzi's decision, which he hinted might be linked to the foreign minister's secret ambitions to join Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, which has been the most vocal in calling for Italy to "defend our boys and bring them home". Terzi denied the suggestion. Monti also said Italy had come under pressure from the BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) to uphold its pledge or face possible sanctions. News of Terzi's resignation was the top item on Indian TV and gained immediate front-page headlines. All-news channel Times Now, one of Italy's toughest critics throughout the affair, said "Italy has its first political victim of the marines row: Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi". In their coverage, the Indian media highlighted the joy of the fishermen's wives at the marines' return as well as the agreement under which the pair could be sent back to complete any jail time in Italy. Some media outlets also linked the case to corruption allegations surrounding a $748 million deal for the purchase of 12 Italian helicopters, which the Indian government is now threatening to scrap.

Lascia il tuo commento

Condividi le tue opinioni su Gazzetta del Sud online

Caratteri rimanenti: 400

Le altre notizie

i più letti di oggi