UN General Assembly President John Ashe has informed Italy that he will try and raise with India the issue of the two Italian marines who are being tried for killing two Indian fishermen during his three-day visit that begins on Wednesday.
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano met Ashe here on Monday and “briefed him on the situation of the two-year-old case of the marines.
“In response, President Ashe informed the Minister that in the course of his imminent State visit to India, he will be alert for whatever opportunity presents itself to raise the issue,” a statement issued by Ashe’s spokesperson said.
Ashe will visit India from March 19-22, during which he is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Alfano also briefed the President of the General Assembly on issues of priority for Italy, including enhancing efforts to counter terrorism and human trafficking.
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Alfano had also met UN chief Ban Ki-moon but according to information provided by the office of Ban’s spokesperson, there was no mention of the issue of the Italian marines and their trial in India during Ban’s meeting with Alfano.
A readout provided by Ban’s office about the meeting said the Secretary-General “called on Italy to ensure that refugeescrossing the Mediterranean are treated with dignity and that the principle of non-refoulement is respected.
“He expressed concern about reports of severe treatment of migrants, especially women, at reception camps and underscored the need to ensure their human rights.
“The Secretary-General praised Italy for its contribution to peacekeeping, the fight against organised crime and counterterrorism efforts, especially in North Africa, the Sahel and the Horn.
He thanked Italy for accepting another group of residents from Camp Hurriya.” Ahead of his meeting with Ban, Alfano had said that Italy is willing to try the marines “at home, but in the meantime we ask for their freedom.”
Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012, sparking diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.
The marines, deployed on the Italian-flagged oil tanker MT Enrica Lexie, said they mistook the fishermen for pirates. They are now staying in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi awaiting trial.
India has removed the possibility of a death penalty but insisted that the marines would still be prosecuted under the anti-piracy law and face up to 10 years in prison.
Italy has said the marines should be tried in Italy since the incident took place in international waters. However, New Delhi says it has the right to try the Italians as the victims were Indians on board an Indian fishing boat.