Rome

Marines won't face India death penalty

'Mitigating factors' says Indian FM

Marines won't face India death penalty

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, April 29 - Two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen after mistaking them for pirates will not face the death penalty, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid said Monday. "They are not facing that possibility," he said. He added that Indian law recognizes a mitigating factor that offers hope that the pair may not be held criminally accountable. Kurshid spoke of "a crucial mitigating factor, that of good faith". "If someone acts in good faith, there is no criminal culpability," he said. There have been conflicting reports on the penalties faced by the men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, since they were returned to India after coming back home to vote amid an escalating diplomatic row over Italy's initial refusal to hand them back. On April 22 India's supreme court handed the issue of their coming trial to the government. New Delhi decided to continue letting India's anti-terrorism police lead a fresh probe. Latorre and Girone will be investigated by the anti-terrorism National Investigation Agency (NIA), and not the criminal Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This was initially taken as suggesting 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 a drawn-out diplomatic row, Italy agreed to hand the men 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 climbed down on 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. Newly appointed Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, who replaced Giulio Terzi who resigned in a government flap over the case, said she was certain an agreement would be found because of India's great legal tradition and respect for human rights. "India is a great country, and one of rights. Our countries need to listen to each other," she said.

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