Defence minister says marines can’t be judged in India

Roberta Pinotti warns recourse to arbitration if govt talks fail

The Italian defence minister on Wednesday said two Italian marines held in India in the deaths of two fishermen two years ago should not be judged in that country. “This government says emphatically that our two marines can not be judged in India, because they are soldiers who were on a mission on behalf of our country,” Roberta Pinotti said near the southern Italian coastal city of Brindisi, where she is visiting the San Marco navy brigade headquarters.

“We will continue to look for mediation with the new Indian government, and we will not even wait for one day to pass to go to arbitration,” added Pinotti. “We forcefully call for the internationalization of the affair which means the involvement of our allies, because anti-pirate missions also regard other countries,” Pinotti said. “I never forget on any day that there are two San Marco riflemen who in this moment are not with their companions in arms, but in India, imprisoned for two years without charges,” she said.

Pinotti’s statements come the day after she said Italy was in talks with India’s new centre-right government led by Narendra Modi which emerged victorious from India’s marathon elections that ended in mid-May. Pinotti said Tuesday that if the Indian government does not take a favorable stance toward Italy’s position, Italy will proceed immediately to arbitration.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone have been held in India under mobility restrictions for over two years pending trial after allegedly shooting dead fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki aboard their trawler during an anti-piracy mission in February 2012. Last month, the Italian government announced it was opening a “new phase” in the saga, replacing its special envoy on the case and sending its ambassador back to New Delhi to help steer the case towards arbitration by an international organisation such as the UN.


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