The new Italian government has described the detention of two of its marines for two years in connection with the killing of two Indian fishermen as “unjust”, and vowed to bring them back.
“It’s an unjust situation…We must bring them home,” said new Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti.
The plight of the marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, held since February 2012 without charge — was “in my heart and in the hearts of all Italian people”, she told ANSA news agency on Friday.
Speaking to reporters after Italy’s new Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his cabinet were sworn in at the presidential palace on Saturday, Pinotti said the case of the marines is “our first concern”.
Italy’s envoy for the case, Foreign Undersecretary Staffan de Mistura, said there was no point in his returning to India for a Supreme Court hearing on an Italian appeal on February 24.
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“In the current circumstances we decided a fresh trip of mine to India was not opportune,” he said.
The marines shot dead two fishermen whom they believed to be pirates off the Kerala coast in February 2012, sparking diplomatic tensions between the two countries.
Italy approached India’s Supreme Court on January 15 amid fears that the National Investigation Agency, which is probing the case, intends to prosecute the marines under the anti- terror act which carries the death penalty.
India recently removed the possibility of a death penalty but insisted that the marines would still be prosecuted under the anti-piracy law. Now, they face up to 10 years in jail.
Renzi, who became Italy’s youngest premier on Saturday, was said to be considering “new initiatives” after it recalled its Ambassador to India, Daniele Mancini.
Italian representatives to the United Nations raised the issue at the highest levels this week. The meetings in New York were aimed at reinforcing Italy’s concerns about delays in the case with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Meanwhile, the spouses of the marines met with officials and asked the Italian Ambassador to refuse to return to New Delhi until the case is resolved.
Vania Ardito, wife of Girone, and Paola Moschetti, partner of Massimiliano Latorre, spoke after meeting government officials.
Moschetti said they pressed the officials to ensure there is “continuity” between the former government and the incoming administration in handling the case.
The marines “cannot be victims of delays and complexities”, former foreign minister Emma Bonino said on Tuesday after the Supreme Court postponed the case till February 24.