Italy in fresh push on India marines

Envoy de Mistura back in New Delhi

Italy in fresh push on India marines

(By Denis Greenan). Rome, August 13 - Italy is set to make a fresh push on two marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates. Italian government envoy Staffan de Mistura travelled to New Delhi on Tuesday to meet the pair, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, and their lawyers during a three-day visit, the latest in a stream of trips aimed at finding what Italy hopes will be a satisfactory solution to the case. De Mistura will hold talks with Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday. The government envoy told ANSA that four marines who were on board the E. Lexie merchant ship with Latorre and Girone will not be sent to New Delhi to testify on the incident in which the two fishermen died. Latorre and Girone are accused by Indian authorities of the double homicides of Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki in Feburary 2012 after allegedly mistaking them for pirates while guarding the merchant ship off the coast of the southern Kerala region. The four marines, de Mistura told ANSA, will not be sent to India in "a decision taken in Italy on all levels, including mine". "We are confident a solution will be found," he added. Italy's Foreign Minister Emma Bonino last week repeated the government's intention to bring home the two marines. The government's objective, she said, is to "bring them home". "With radical obstinacy and sound realism," she added, "we can do it". Last month Bonino said Latorre and Girone would most likely return home by Christmas. "We are working on it and I am confident" she said. Kurshid has said India is working "as quickly as possible" to resolve the case. "We are trying to solve obstacles in the context of our laws," and how they relate to Italian laws, he said. He added that he hoped for "a better understanding" between the two countries: "I hope all these our efforts will lead to a quick decision". However, Khurshid refused to set a time frame for finalizing investigation and trial of the marines. India has said that it hopes to conclude an inquiry by the end of August. Khurshid recently assured Italy that the marines would not face the death penalty. "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 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 after the February 22 general election. 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 are being 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 might 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. After a drawn-out diplomatic row, Italy agreed to hand the men back to Indian authorities in March 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 general election. They had previously returned, and Italy won praise for keeping its promise, after a Christmas break. 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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