No exacerbated relations with India over marines, Mauro says

Probe could be delayed over witnesses kept in Italy, media say

No exacerbated relations with India over marines, Mauro says

Rimini, August 21 - Relations with India must not be exacerbated as Indian authorities are working hard to find a "just and quick" solution to the case of two Italian marines who face murder charges over the deaths of two fishermen, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro said on Wednesday. Indian media on Tuesday and Wednesday reported that Italy's refusal to send to India four Italian soldiers, who were witnesses to the incident, for questioning in the case of marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre could delay the conclusion of the probe. "There is no refusal (by Italy)," Mauro said on Wednesday, "but simply the fact that Indian laws enable witnesses to testify in a variety of ways," including video conference and the possibility of Indian investigators to travel to Italy. Earlier this month Italy's envoy on the case Staffan de Mistura told Indian authorities during a visit to New Delhi that the four sailors who witnessed the shooting in February 2012 would not be available to travel to India for interviews - a contentious issue between Italy and India as police wanted to interview all witnesses. Latorre and Girone are accused by Indian authorities of the double homicides of Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates while guarding a merchant ship off the coast of the southern Kerala region. On Tuesday, Indian state news agency Pti said Italy's refusal to send over the four marines - Renato Voglino, Massimo Andronico, Antonio Fontana and Alessandro Conte - could delay the conclusion of the investigation. New Delhi newspaper The Asian Age on Wednesday quoted Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid as saying he was confident India's legal system would find a solution to the issue and that there had been "no refusal" from Italy to cooperate. Staffan de Mistura said on his return from meetings with Indian officials earlier this month that the marines' trial could begin by early September and if it ends "relatively quickly" the marines could return home for Christmas.

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