Kerala to seek legal option in marines' case

Terming as unacceptable Italy's decision not to send its two marines back to India to face trial for allegedly killing two fishermen, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy today said Kerala would explore legal options to ensure justice to the kin of the deceased fishermen.

"Italy's decision is not at all acceptable. It has always been the firm position of the state that the marines have committed a criminal offence within Indian borders and they should be tried in India under the Indian laws," Chandy said after a cabinet meeting where the latest developments figured.

The state had maintained this position at all stages of the case, Chandy said.

The state had opposed the proposal to allow the marines to visit Italy during Christmas and suggested that their family members could join them in Kerala since the accused had been on bail by that time, he said.

Kerala had also objected to the bail conditions with the Italian Ambassdaor as guarantor citing that the envoy could avoid facing legal action in the event of the marines not returning since he enjoyed diplomatic immunity, he contended.

To a question, Chandy said he did not think that the Centre was responsible for the present twist in the case since the Union Government had always backed the state in the case.

The chief minister said he had already faxed letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid expressing the state's anguish over Italy's decision.

Chandy, who will be leaving for Delhi this evening, said he would discuss the matter with the state's counsel to explore legal possibilities for getting the marines back to India for completing the trial.

Meanwhile in Kollam, Dora, wife of Jelastine, one of the two fishermen killed when the marines opened fire, said there was a "conspiracy" to save the accused which should be "exposed."

The Italian government had last night said the marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, who were on board the Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie', when they had shot dead the two fishermen on February 15, last year, will not return to India.

The Italian Foreign Ministry accused Indian authorities of violating International rights by detaining the marines and said it was "open" to let an international arbitrator to assess the case.

The marines were permitted by the Supreme Court to go to Italy for four weeks for voting in last month's election. Earlier they were allowed to go home for Christmas holidays after which they returned to India on expiry of their leave.

On January 18, the apex court had turned down the Italian government's plea that the Indian courts had no jurisdiction in the case and had held that the two marines should be tried by the Centre by constituting a special court to conduct their trial.

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