Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Marines back after ‘no-death’ assurance

NEW DELHI, 22 MARCH 2013 : The two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast returned here today after India gave an assurance that they will not face death penalty nor will they be arrested, bringing to an end a raging 11-day diplomatic row between the two countries. The marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, arrested in connection with the killing of the fishermen in February last year, returned late this evening in the company of Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura in a military plane. The dramatic u-turn by the Italian government, which had earlier last week said the two marines would not be sent back, enabled the marines to meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court when it gave them permission to go for a month to vote in the elections there. With the Supreme Court acting tough and restraining the Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, Italy sought and got assurances to enable the marines' return. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who denied any deal was reached on the issue, told Parliament that Italy had sought “clarifications” on death penalty and other issues which were a matter of “concern” to that country. “It (Italy) sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the marines on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern. “Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India,” he said. India also allayed Italy's fears by saying that “according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard,” Mr Khurshid said. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was bitter after Italy reneged on its commitments earlier, welcomed the decision to send back the marines, saying the “integrity and dignity of Indian judicial process has been upheld”. He expressed happiness that the matter was being “brought to a satisfactory conclusion” and the trial will now proceed as per the directions of the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the government and the Opposition clashed over who gets the credit for Italy sending back its two Marines to India to face trial, a decision welcomed across the political spectrum. Mr Khurshid credited Government's diplomacy for the return of the marines to face trial in the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast last year. “I can certainly say we have been in constant contact. I have repeatedly said that you should not write off diplomacy too soon. So at last I can say that diplomacy continues to work when everybody else thinks that everything is lost and please give diplomacy a little more chance to do things that are important for our country,” he said. “The MEA was in the forefront.” Mr Khurshid said he found it difficult to concede that the Opposition contributed to the resolution of the diplomatic standoff between India and Italy. “I find it difficult to accept that postures and positions taken by Opposition leaders could have contributed to this,” he said. At the same time, he acknowledged that the Supreme Court's position too helped resolve the crisis. 

Diplomatic row was necessary: Italian govt

ROME, 22 MARCH: Italy today said that a diplomatic row with India over the marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen was “necessary” to make sure the men did not face the death penalty. “The situation is normalising,” Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi told La Repubblica daily after Italy's surprise climbdown last night in the row that saw the Indian Supreme Court ordering the Italian ambassador not to leave the country. Justifying their earlier decision not to send back the marines, Mr Terzi said that without buying time for talks by reneging on the pledge to return the pair, “we would not have been able to negotiate the current conditions, which envisage (good) conditions of everyday living and the guarantee that the death penalty will not applied”. pti

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