Italian marines return to India

Italian marines return to India

The two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast returned here today after India gave an assurance that they will not face death penalty nor will they be arrested, bringing to an end a raging 11-day diplomatic row between the two countries.

The marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, arrested in connection with the killing of the fishermen in February last year returned late this evening in the company of Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura in a military plane.
The dramatic u-turn by the Italian government, which had earlier last week said the two marines would not be sent back, enabled the marines to meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court when it gave them permission to go for a month to vote in the elections there.

With the Supreme Court acting tough and restraining the Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, Italy sought and got assurances to enable the marines' return.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who denied any deal was reached on the issue, told Parliament that Italy had sought "clarifications" on death penalty and other issues which were a matter of "concern" to that country.

"It (Italy) sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the marines on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern.

"Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India," he said.

India also allayed Italy's fears by saying that "according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard," Khurshid said.

The apex court had on March 14 asked Mancini not to leave the country without its permission, taking exception to his government's refusal to send back the two marines to face trial in India in the killing of two Indian fishermen last year.

After Rohatgi, who replaced senior advocate Harish Salve, said he was appearing for Republic of Italy and the Ambassador, the bench told him, "We are concerned with Daniele Mancini. What is your intention Mr Daniele Mancini?

"We are concerned with the intention. Are you going to comply with this order? We are not concerned with anything else," the bench said.

At the begining of the hearing Attorney General G E Vahanvati placed before the bench a copy of note verbale written by Italian government to Indian government.
He said it was intriguing that the note verbale mentions "any restriction to the freedom of movement of the Ambassador of Italy to India including any limitation to his right of leaving the Indian territory, will be contrary to the international obligations of the receiving state to respect his person, freedom, dignity and function."

Vahanvati said the Centre has rejected March 15 note verbale from Italian Embassy in which it also said "the Embassy of Italy expects therefore that the MEA will ensure full compliance with the privileges and immunities contemplated in the Convention and provide reassurance that no Indian authority shall impose or implement restrictive measures on the personal freedom of His Excellency The Ambassador".

The Attorney General said the Italy government appears unaware of the constitutional scheme under which the government functions in India.

Before passing the order today, the bench said the period of four weeks for which the marines were allowed to go to Italy to cast their vote was yet to be over and still they have time to return.

"We respected the undertaking (given by the Ambassador) and we allowed them (marines) to go for four weeks which will end on March 22. There is still time for them to come. Strictly speaking they have not still violated our order," it said.

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