ROME/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A decision to return two Italian marines accused of murdering fishermen to stand trial in India stirred anger in Italy on Friday and calls for foreign minister Giulio Terzi to resign. Mario Monti’s caretaker government on Thursday reversed a March 11 decision not to send the marines back from a home [...]

Sunday Times 2

Marines return to Delhi; anger in Italy, India ‘happy’


ROME/NEW DELHI (Reuters) – A decision to return two Italian marines accused of murdering fishermen to stand trial in India stirred anger in Italy on Friday and calls for foreign minister Giulio Terzi to resign.
Mario Monti’s caretaker government on Thursday reversed a March 11 decision not to send the marines back from a home visit after Rome secured a promise from New Delhi that the two would not face the death penalty if convicted, officials said.
The marines, part of a military security team protecting a tanker from piracy, are accused of shooting two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre (right) and Salvatore Girone arriving at Ciampino airport near Rome in December 2012. AFP

They say they fired warning shots at a fishing boat believing it to be a pirate vessel.
The sailors, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, arrived back in India on Friday aboard an Italian air force plane.
India and Italy have been embroiled in an escalating row over the marines, who had been allowed home to vote in the Italian elections in February on condition they returned to India by Friday.
Michele Emiliano, the mayor of Girone’s hometown of Bari, said he had been comforting the marine’s “despairing” family.
“A hypocritical government is trying to end its embarrassment by sending the sailors back to India after exhibiting them as ‘free’ during the election campaign,” Emiliano wrote on Twitter.
Foreign minister Terzi defended the move in an interview with la Repubblica daily on Friday, rejecting calls from centre-right politicians for him to quit.
“I don’t see a reason to” resign, he said, adding that the temporary stand-off with India had helped Italy ensure the marines would be treated well.
India’s Supreme Court ruled in January that India had jurisdiction to try the marines. But Italy had challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in international waters and that the two should face any trial at home.
Indian politicians welcomed Rome’s decision. “We are happy with the outcome which is consistent with the dignity of Indian judicial process,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters.
Italy’s initial plan to not send the marines back had exposed Manmohan Singh’s fragile coalition, which governs with a minority in parliament, to opposition attacks that it was too soft and had even colluded with Italy to allow the marines to leave the country.
The government had demanded Italy return the sailors or face a possible rupture in ties.
The Supreme Court went so far as to bar Italy’s ambassador from leaving the country, but behind the scenes, Italian and Indian officials were trying to resolve the dispute.
“There have been very intensive diplomatic contacts between Italy and India during the last 24 hours,” foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
Details of the negotiations have not been disclosed but Akbaruddin told Reuters that India and Italy had an agreement under which convicted prisoners could serve jail time in their home countries.
Foreign minister Salman Khurshid said in parliament that India had assured Italy that the marines would not face the death penalty, which only applied in the “rarest of rare cases”.
“Italy falls into line,” crowed one Indian television cable news channel, while Cabinet minister Manish Tewari said Rome’s decision to return the sailors showed that India’s “gravitas is being recognised across the world”.

Is the return of two Italian marines a victory for Indian diplomacy?

By Soutik Biswas

Italy’s decision to send back to Delhi for trial two marines accused of murdering two Indian fishermen is being described by many in India as a triumph for its diplomacy.
Considering the knotty situation both the countries had got in over the issue – India’s Supreme Court barring the Italian ambassador from leaving the country and insisting that he had effectively surrendered his diplomatic immunity with his affidavit promising the marines’ return – Rome’s decision certainly defuses an unsavoury diplomatic row.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin tweeted that “intensive diplomatic contacts in the last 24 hours led to Italy informing that the marines will return as per time line set up the Supreme Court.” His Twitter timeline is now littered with congratulatory messages hailing the development as a “victory” for Indian diplomacy.
But some, like former top diplomat Kanwal Sibal, believe the decision to return the marines is actually a “sorry commentary on the ineptness of Italian diplomacy”, rather than a big triumph for the Indians.
“The Italians didn’t consider the matter seriously. They underestimated the Indian response. Once they saw that the script was not moving as they had anticipated they began to review the matter after treating the marines as heroes,” he told me.
“The fact that they decided to send them back projects Italian diplomacy in poor light. It also indicates sharp divisions in the government. Many in the government must have disagreed with Rome’s decision not to send back the marines, otherwise they would not have reversed the decision.”
Indian diplomats believe Rome did not want to escalate the crisis further after what they describe as the Supreme Court’s “bold but questionable decision” to restrain the Italian ambassador from leaving the country in what was described as a violation of the Vienna Convention.
There was also rising concern about the fallout of this crisis on considerable Italian interests – defence deals, for example – in India.
Italy believes they have come out of the crisis with a face saver – it has reportedly received assurances from India about the marines’ treatment, their human rights, and the fact that they are not at risk of receiving the death penalty, which in any case seemed highly unlikely.
But, as Indian diplomats are saying, “the stakes had become too high for Italy and they buckled”.
Courtesy BBC

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