NEW DELHI/ROME: Italy said on Monday that India’s relations with Rome and with the European Union could suffer if two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen are tried under an anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, part of a military security team protecting a cargo ship off the Indian coast, say they thought the fishermen were pirates and fired shots to warn them off in February 2012.
In a case that has become politically sensitive in both countries, they deny killing anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat.
India’s Supreme Court will hold a hearing next week on whether the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen can be charged under a strict anti-piracy law, in a case that has damaged ties between the two countries.
India’s attorney general said on Friday the two would be tried for the deaths of the fishermen under anti-piracy and anti-terrorism laws but that the death penalty would not be imposed.
The case has sparked a bitter row between India and Italy, which has lambasted Indian officials for keeping the marines in India for two years without charges being filed.
Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura said in New Delhi that the application of such a law against military officials from a friendly nation was “unacceptable,” and that his government and other nations would fight India’s position.
The marines, Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are currently on bail pending trial and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in Delhi. They were part of a military security team on a cargo ship and fired at the fishermen they said they mistook for pirates.
Italy has insisted the men be sent back to Italy while awaiting the start of the trial, but India has refused.