BY MOHAMMAD SHOEB
DOHA: The Prime Minister of Italy, Enrico Letta, on Monday warned India that the case against two Italian marines must come to an end quickly as Italy cannot continue to wait further without any final results about it.
“The dispute with India involving the two Italian marines is a very very serious affair for us,” said Letta. “We have decided to follow this issue with a very serious approach because it is impossible for us to wait for two long years, as we are doing. However, it cannot go continued without any news about it.”
Letta made the remarks in reply to a question on the issue at a press conference held here to announce the outcomes of his two-day official visit to Qatar.
The Italian premier said: “We are waiting for the Supreme Court decision. If nothing comes out, we would send a new and final message asking India to come to the table with papers to end the dispute.”
The dispute between Italy and India began in February 15, 2012, when the two Italian marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — stationed on the merchant ship Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala, fired on a fishing boat that the marines worried might be filled with pirates. The marines argued that they had fired warning shots that did not strike the boat.
But after few hours, a fishing boat brought two dead men, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, who had just one name. The Enrica Lexie was brought to Kochi, a west coast Indian port, and Latorre and Girone were arrested.
According to reports, Staffan de Mistura, a special Italian envoy who flew to New Delhi on Sunday, deplored the delay in the settlement of the dispute and also warned that any further delay is very likely to damage the bilateral relations.
The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the government to decide within a week whether it will invoke a severe anti-piracy law against the Italian marines.
India’s home ministry has entrusted the probe to an anti-terror agency. Italy has said the case should be investigated by police. Rome has raised objections to the agency’s plan to invoke maritime laws, which carry a maximum penalty of death.
But according to the latest developments in New Delhi, the marines may escape death sentence with the India’s home ministry yesterday agreeing not to push for the capital punishment against the duo.
The ministry conveyed this view to India’s Attorney General (AG), G E Vahanvati during a meeting in New Delhi. Vahanvati is expected to give his opinion shortly, highly-placed sources told a news agency.
According to PTI, India’s leading news agency, the home ministry is of the opinion that the marines should be tried under anti-terrorism Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act but the provision for death penalty should not be invoked.
Notably, the home ministry’s view is in consonance with the commitment given by India to Italy that provisions for death penalty will not be invoked against them.