Italy has regretted that the case of two of its marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen was not resolved within three days of the incident, before the issue became enmeshed in India’s “deadly judicial and political-electoral gears”.
“The most suitable time to resolve it were the first 72 hours,” said Staffan de Mistura, special envoy of the Italian government.
“No one could have imagined, on February 15, 2012, that this unheard-of affair involving two marines would be protracted for two long years,” Foreign Under-Secretary Mistura said ahead of the next hearing of the case Tuesday in India’s Supreme Court.
Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone “entered the deadly judicial and political-electoral gears of Kerala” after the matter was not resolved, Mistura was quoted as saying by Italy’s ANSA news agency.
The marines shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, sparking diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.
The Indian authorities have given their nod to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the matter, to prosecute the marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation And Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act (SUA). The SUA carries death penalty.
India last week 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. Italy said use of the anti-terror law equates it with being a terrorist state.
Last week, India’s apex court set February 18 for hearing arguments from both sides on the use of the SUA. Italy had approached the SC on January 15. Meanwhile, Italy Foreign Minister Emma Bonino thanking EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said “Ashton’s statements acknowledge that India’s decision to prosecute the marines under such a legislation would undermine the dignity of the Italian marine officers and of Italy as a country.”