Italian president seeks jurisdiction over marines  

Rome, July 27 (IANS/AKI) President Sergio Matarella and Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Monday said Italy will continue its fight to prevent two marines going on trial in India over the killing of two fishermen.

“Italy is a country that is ready to protect its citizens,” Mattarella told Italian ambassadors attending a conference in Rome.

“It intends to keep battling with determination for Massimiliano Latorre to remain in Italy and Salvatore Girone to come home as soon as possible,” he added.

Matarella was referring to the two Italian marines accused of killing the Indian fisherman off Kerala on February 15, 2012 while guarding an oil tanker after allegedly mistaking them for pirates.

India’s Supreme Court recently ruled that Latorre could stay in Italy for a further six months for medical treatment after it allowed him home for heart surgery in January following a stroke.

Girone is currently detained at the Italian embassy in India awaiting trial.

Gentiloni told the Italian ambassadors on Monday that the government would back international arbitration of Latorre and Girone’s case “at the international bodies we have decided to turn to”.

The UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in Hamburg said on Friday that a public hearing of the marines’ case would be held on August 10-11.

The announcement came after Italy moved to end the 40-month-long diplomatic and legal wrangle with India over the marines and asked the Hamburg court to arbitrate the dispute.

Italy filed its motion under article 290 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which says any precautionary measures undertaken by one party against another in a maritime dispute can be lifted once the case has gone to court.

Italy has requested that India refrain from taking judicial action against Latorre and Girone, from exercising jurisdiction in their case, and that it “immediately lift all restrictions on the marines’ freedom of movement”.

The Indian government has said it will tell the Hamburg tribunal at the August 10 hearing that it opposes the case being decided at arbitration, arguing that it has jurisdiction to try Latorre and Girone.

Formal charges against the pair have not yet been presented, and Italy has protested numerous delays to the case, which has strained bilateral relations.

Italy argues the case is beyond India’s jurisdiction as the incident took place outside the country’s territorial waters.

It also claims the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India, because they are servicemen who were deployed on an anti-piracy mission.

The European Union has said the dispute risks endangering international anti-piracy efforts.

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