India today demanded the return of two Italian marines to face trial for homicide in the country, rejecting the stand of the Italian government which has gone back on its assurances.
Angered by a sudden u-turn by the Italian government which refused the return of two marines, charged with killing of two Indian fishermen last year, Ministry of External Affairs summoned Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini to convey India's position on this matter in the "strongest of terms".
"I summoned the Italian Ambassador to my office. Basically, what I told him is that the content of the note which was given to us conveying the position of the Government of Italy regarding the two marines is not acceptable to us.
"There was an offer of discussions which has been made in a note from the Italians on March 6 that is a separate from the assurance given to the Supreme Court," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said.
The summoning comes a day after the Italian Foreign Ministry refused the return of the two marines, accusing 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 --Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone- -charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year in an anti-piracy operation, were permitted by the apex court on 22nd of last month to go to Italy for four weeks for voting in election.
Last time they were allowed to go home for Christmas holidays after which they returned back to India on expiry of their leave.
MEA said as per yesterday's note verbale, Italy has informed that "since a controversy between the two States has been established, the two Italian Marines, Latorre and
Girone, will not return to India on the expiration of the permission granted to them".
"Government of India states firmly that it does not agree with the position conveyed by the Italian Government on the return of the two Marines to India," MEA said.
"It was conveyed to him (Mancini) that India expects Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfill the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India," it added.
MEA said, "It was only following this undertaking that the SC allowed the two Marines to travel to and remain in Italy for a period of four weeks and return to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic.
"It was conveyed to the Italian Ambassador that the Italian Government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the SC order".
The Italian Foreign Ministry statement yesterday also said India's decision to hold trial of the marines in that country violated their rights under International law. Italy has argued that the marines should be tried in their home country.
The Italian government said it was open to arriving at a resolution of the dispute through international arbitration or judicial settlement.
The Indian Supreme Court had on February 22 permitted the two marines to travel to their country to cast vote in the February 24 and 25 elections there.
The bench said that the marines are only allowed to travel to Italy and remain there and will have to return to India by the end of the four-week deadline.
The two marines were on board the Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie', when they had allegedly shot dead the two fishermen on February 15, last year.
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.
"The incident of firing from the Italian vessel on the Indian shipping vessel having occurred within the Contiguous Zone, the Union of India is entitled to prosecute the two Italian marines under the criminal justice system prevalent in the country," the bench had said.
© Copyright PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of any PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.