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Italy: Lawmakers announce mission to India in marines case

last update: January 15, 12:56

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Rome, 15 January (AKI) - A delegation from the Italian parliament is due to travel to India in a gesture of solidarity with two marines facing trial for murder there said a group of politicians.

The chairmen of the foreign affairs and defence commissions of both houses of parliament released a statement late on Tuesday.

A cross-party delegation will visit Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre in New Delhi and the commission chairman may meet their Indian counterparts during the mission," the statement said.

"It is aimed at expressing to them the solidarity of the Parliament and of Italy," the statement added without setting a date for the mission.

The country's Supreme Court will next Monday consider a plea from lawyers for the two marines to release Girone and Latorre, citing extensive delays in starting any trial, according to legal documents cited by media.

The pair have been in custody for almost two years on suspicion of shooting dead two Indian fisherman off the southern state of Kerala in February 2012, but no formal charges have been laid against them.

The petition is the latest twist in the case which last year sparked a diplomatic row between Italy and India after Rome initially refused to send the pair back to India after they were allowed home to vote in the February national election.

Italy only relented when it received assurances from India the marines would not face execution if convicted, but India's National Investigation Agency wants to charge the pair under special maritime law which carries the death penalty.

The spokeswoman for European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told journalists on Monday it was following the case of two Italian marines in India "very closely". Maja Kocijancic, said any decision on the case would be "very carefully assessed".

EU industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Antonio Tajani in a Tweet on Tuesday urged the EU to halt free trade negotiations with India while the two marines faced the death penalty.

The two marines claim they thought the two unarmed fishermen were pirates and only fired warning shots in the air.

Italy says the incident happened in international waters and the marines should be tried at home while India claims jurisdiction, saying the killings occurred in its own territorial waters.

The case has highlighted the recent practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships as protection against pirate attacks and maritime experts say it is the first test of whether military personnel enjoy sovereign immunity aboard commercial vessels.

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