New Delhi confirms threat to Rome embassy

Bullet, ‘hate mail’ sent in escalating row

An Indian government spokesman on Friday confirmed its embassy in Rome had received threats including a bullet linked to the case of two Italian marines facing trial in India for the alleged murder of two Indian fishermen two years ago. “We have asked Italian authorities to ensure the protection of diplomatic staff,” said Syed Akbaruddin. “We are sure our Italian friends will guarantee the saftey of our diplomats,” he added.

Akbaruddin reiterated that “diplomatic channels are open at the highest level between the two countries” despite Italy’s decision to recall its ambassador to protest the latest delay in the drawn-out affair. India’s top newspaper reported Thursday that a package containing a bullet was sent to India’s embassy in Rome earlier this week. An anonymous letter contained threats on the marines case, said the Times of India, which with a circulation of over 3.14 million prides itself on being the world’s largest selling English-language daily. It said: “India-Italy stand off over the Italian marines case escalates with Italy now resorting to intimidation tactics in a bid to get the two Italian marines freed. “After arm twisting they have now come down to hate mails, with the Indian embassy receiving over 100 hate mails, threats and a parcel having live bullet”. Tensions have been rising over the drawn-out affair recently. On Wednesday premier-designate Matteo Renzi was said to be considering “new initiatives” after Italy recalled its ambassador to India over the case of the two anti-piracy marines held for two years without charge.

While ambassador Daniele Mancini met with officials in Rome, Nicola Latorre, chairman of the Senate defence committee, said Renzi was considering new measures and Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said the new administration would maintain the Italian government’s commitment to the case. At the same time, Italian representatives to the United Nations raised the issue at the highest levels, sources said Wednesday. The meetings in New York were aimed at reinforcing Italy’s concerns about delays in the case with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had previously suggested it was a bilateral issue. The sessions came on the same day that Bonino said that she is also urging the Speaker of the European Parliament to intervene in the case, to increase pressure on the government in New Delhi. “I wrote to the Speaker of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, urging his intervention in the case,” Bonino said earlier in the day. Bonino said that it was “important to involve colleagues from other countries,” and institutions such as Schulz in pressing India to move rapidly on the case. Officials and the families of marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre were frustrated on Tuesday when India’s Supreme Court announced the latest in a series of delays in the case. The marines are accused of killing fishermen Valentine (aka Gelastine) and Ajesh Binki after allegedly mistaking them for pirates and opening fire on their fishing trawler while guarding the privately owned Italian-flagged oil-tanker MT Enrica Lexie off the coast of Kerala on February 15, 2012. Italy has been seeking support internationally in the case and last week, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton raised the issue with Ban.

Ashton and other EU officials have said that the case has serious implications for all anti-piracy missions. Meanwhile, the spouses of the two marines met with officials and urged the Italian ambassador to refuse to return to New Delhi until the case is resolved. Vania Ardito, wife of Girone, and Paola Moschetti, partner of Massimiliano Latorre, spoke after meetings with government officials. Bonino “has secured the commitment of the new government for the release of Salvatore and Massimiliano,” Ardito told a news conference.

Moschetti added that the women pressed officials to ensure there is “continuity” between the former government of Enrico Letta and the incoming administration in handling the case. The marines “cannot be victims of delays and complexities” amid continued uncertainty whether India will press terrorism charges, Bonino said Tuesday after the Supreme Court announced it was postponing until February 24. The court said that it wanted to give the Indian government time to deliver a written response about whether to prosecute the marines on the basis of a harsh anti-terrorism, anti-piracy law in the case. The idea of using such a law caused additional outrage in Italy, as Rome said it would equate the country with a terrorist state. Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro has said Indian authorities have hit “the limit” of Italian patience in the case. “There is no justice in this case. We are faced with ambiguous, unreliable behaviour on the part of the Indian authorities”.


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