Italian PM calls up Khurshid over marines

Italian PM calls up Khurshid over marines

 Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called up External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday after the National Investigation Agency (NIA) registered a case against Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, for killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012.

Deputy Foreign Minister of Italy Staffan de Mistura, too, called on Khurshid after learning that the NIA had formally begun probe against the marines.
Sources said Khurshid and de Mistura discussed developments in the case after the Supreme Court lifted travel restrictions on Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini.

Khurshid is understood to have provided de Mistura an update of the developments. He also informed de Mistura of  steps being taken in compliance with the Supreme Court’s directions.

The minister said the government would inform the apex court on April 16 about the efforts being made to constitute a Special Court in accordance with its January 18 order.

On directions from the Union Home Ministry, the NIA took up the case from the Kerala government on Thursday and registered cases under Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief) along with Section 34 (common intent) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

The marines were also booked under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002, which provides for death penalty in a murder case. The NIA submitted its case to their special court in Delhi.

Concern over punishment

The Italians are concerned over the possibility of their marines facing capital punishment as the penal sections they have been charged with empowers courts to award capital punishment.  On the contrary, European countries, including Italy, have already abolished death penalty. And only on a clarification from  Khurshid, that the case does not fall under the rarest-of-rare category, did they revise the earlier decision and allowed the marines to face trial in India.

The apex court, while ruling out Kerala’s claim on jurisdiction, had asked the Centre to not only reinvestigate the case, but to also ascertain whether India had jurisdiction on prosecuting them, a move challenged by the Italians.

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