Italian marines defend innocence on Armed Forces Day

'We continue to swallow bitter pills, but with dignity'

Italian marines defend innocence on Armed Forces Day

Rome, June 10 - The two Italian marines on trial in India for alleged double homicide issued a statement Monday insisting they were innocent despite the "many bitter pills" they have been forced to swallow. "In this long period spent in India, we have swallowed and continue to swallow many bitter pills, but with dignity and pride we will continue to push on so long as God gives us the strength, respecting this country and demonstrating our innocence," said Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone in a letter written for Italy's Armed Forces Day. The pair is currently waiting for a new investigation to be completed by India's NIA anti-terrorism police into 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. The two countries have been in a diplomatic row and relations have been tense since the incident. Italy has contested India's claim that it has jurisdiction over the case, arguing that the deaths occurred in international waters. But Rome agreed to send the pair back to India after home leave to vote when India said they would not face the death penalty. At the height of the spat, when Italy reneged on a pledge to return the marines following the election permit, India blocked the Italian ambassador from leaving the country and the BRICS nations were said to be considering sanctions.

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