Marines in India might not be home for Christmas

Defence minister tones down optimism

Marines in India might not be home for Christmas

Rome, August 21 - Two Italian marines who face murder charges in India over the death of two fishermen might not be back home for Christmas, Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro told Vatican Radio on Wednesday. "I don't know if they will be back by Christmas", said the minister stressing however "the government's very strong determination to close the case quickly and in a just way". Italy's envoy on the case Staffan de Mistura said on his return from meetings with Indian officials earlier this month that the marines' trial could begin by early Septembetr and if it ends "relatively quickly" the marines could return home for Christmas. Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre are accused by Indian authorities of the double homicides of Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki in February 2012 after allegedly mistaking them for pirates while guarding a merchant ship off the coast of the southern Kerala region. Indian media on Tuesday and Wednesday reported that Italy's refusal to send to India four Italian marines who were witnesses to the incident for interviews by investigators could delay the conclusion of the probe. Mauro responded earlier on Wednesday saying there had been "no refusal" by Italy for the soldiers to be interrogated as "Indian laws enable witnesses to testify in a variety of ways", including video conference and the possibility of Indian investigators to travel to Italy. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid also played down the contentious issue between Italy and India in an interview to The Asian Age published Wednesday. Khurshid said 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.

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