Italian MPs’ team visits India over Marines affair

New Delhi, Jan 28 (IANS) A 16-member parliamentary delegation from Italy was in India on a two-day visit to express support and solidarity with the two Italian Marines facing trial over the killing of two Indian fishermen.

The delegation, led by the chairman of the committees on external affairs and on defence from both the houses of the Italian parliament and by the deputy chairmen of the Italian Senate, visited New Delhi Jan 27-28.
Marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre have been detained in India for nearly two years for shooting dead two fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012. They were on security duty on board the Italian vessel Enrica Lexie.
In New Delhi, the delegation met the ambassadors of the European Union and other partners to underline the international repercussions of the issue, which “involves two officers of the Italian Navy who were performing anti-piracy duties in international waters on a ship under the Italian flag”, said a statement.
The Italian delegation could not meet their counterparts in the Indian parliament, in view of the ongoing Republic Day celebrations and the current parliamentary recess.
“They requested that meetings with the Indian standing parliamentary committees on external affairs and on defence are arranged at the earliest in order to initiate dialogue at parliamentary level aimed at facilitating an appropriate and honourable solution to the issue, in the light of the traditional friendly ties that the two nations have always maintained,” it said.
Italian diplomat Staffan De Mistura said in Rome last week that Italy intends to ask India to send the Marines home, pending formal charges and a trial.
The Italian government also wants assurances from India that it will keep an earlier promise that Girone and Latorre will not face the death penalty if found guilty, Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s office said.
The two Marines claimed that they thought the two unarmed Indian fishermen were pirates and only fired warning shots in the air. Italy disputes India’s jurisdiction over the case, claiming the incident took place in international waters.
The case sparked a major diplomatic row between the two countries when Rome refused to return Latorre and Girone to New Delhi after they were allowed home to vote in national elections.
Amid escalating tension, Italy relented and sent the Marines back when it received assurances from India that the pair would not face the death penalty.