Italy on Monday (10/02/2014) opposed India’s move to use an anti-piracy law to prosecute two Italian marines accused of killing Indian fishermen.
The court had given the Indian government a deadline of Monday to present charges against the marines.
Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati told the court that the Italians would be tried under a provision of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts law that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in jail.
The earlier plan had been to prosecute them under a charge attracting the death penalty.
Italy’s special envoy on the case, Staffan de Mistura, said the application of an anti-piracy law to Italian military personnel was unacceptable and their lawyers had opposed it in court, the ANI news agency reported.
Diljeet Titus, one of the lawyers defending the marines, said that the judges would hear further arguments on February 18 and likely give a ruling.
In a statement, the Italian government said the move to try the marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts law was “absolutely disproportionate and incomprehensible: it assimilates the incident to an act of terrorism.
Italy is not a terrorist country.” If the Supreme Court were to uphold the use of the anti-piracy law, it would “run against Italy’s dignity as a sovereign state.” The dispute has triggered a diplomatic row between India and Italy and Rome has slammed New Delhi for keeping the marines in India for two years without any charges being filed.
The dispute dates back to February 15, 2012 when Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone allegedly killed two Indian fishermen, mistaking them for pirates.
The soldiers were part of the security team of an Italian oil tanker crossing the Indian Ocean. – Sapa-dpa