Italy seeks US help to get marines freed

NEW DELHI: Even as it talks about international arbitration to free its Marines that were accused of shooting two Kerala fishermen, Italy has sought support from the US on the issue.

Italy’s defence minister Roberta Pinnoti took up the matter with her US counterpart Chuck Hagel on a recent visit to Washington. In an acknowledgment of Italy’s position, Hagel is said to have told the Italian minister that the case could impact anti-piracy missions of various countries.

Hagel is scheduled to visit India next month but government sources here denied the US authorities taking up the issue yet.

Apparently mistaking the fishermen for pirates, marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone had shot dead the two off the coast of Kerala in February 2012. Italy rejected India’s jurisdiction over the case saying the incident took place in international waters.

Following the government decision to not prosecute the Marines under the anti-piracy law, the two Marines had approached court asking it to prevent NIA from pursuing the case. Interestingly, Mukul Rohatgi, who was representing the Italian embassy, has now been appointed the attorney general.

Italy’s foreign minister Federica Mogherini spoke to her counterpart Sushma Swaraj about the issue.

Italy had earlier rejected India’s jurisdiction saying that only international arbitration could end the impasse. “It is still possible to seek an agreement with the new Indian government, but if it is not possible and we find ourselves at deferment or rejection, we will go ahead with the arbitration procedure and hope to have them here as soon as possible,” defence minister Pinnoti had said earlier this year.


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