New Delhi: The main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has rejected the demand of the Italian government of trying two of its marines in Rome, saying the duo should be tried under Indian law. "Italians can say whatever they want. Facts don't change. Italians killed two Indians in Indian waters. They should be tried in India under Indian law," BJP leader Balbir Punj said.
Backing the BJP's views, the Minister for Home and Vigilance in Kerala, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan said the Kerala government can take cognisance of the offence since Indian jurisdiction expands to 12 nautical miles in the sea. "According to us, this comes under Indian territory. The incident occurred within the territory of India. It is a contiguous area. The contiguous area can also be tried by the Indian law," he said.
The two Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, charged with the murder of two Kerala fishermen, may be back in the country, but the drama is far from over. Italy, who agreed to send back the marines, reversing its earlier decision, still maintains they must be tried in Rome.
"We maintain our position and I would like to restate it, while respecting the Supreme Court we're in India, that in our position, military should be judged in our own country," Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura said. Speaking exclusively to Karan Thapar, Mistura also said the marines were lured into Indian waters by the Kerala police.
Asked why one of the marines returned back to Cochin, Mistura said the Captain was lured into returning by Kerala Police. "I can tell you what I know rather than confirming because I hope the Indian side would discover that. Point number one is what you said is correct. He was there. Point number two he returned not inside the national waters because he was never in national waters. But I will quote instead, I think a senior official of the Kerala Police, who actually very proudly said - "We lured him in"."
Here is the transcript of an excerpt from the interview:
Karan Thapar: You won't tell me whether the marines, if sentenced, will serve in an Indian jail?
Staffan de Mistura: We maintain our position and I would like to re-state it, while respecting the SC we're in India, that in our position, military should be judged in our own country.
Karan Thapar: Why did your Captain come back to Cochin? The theory is that he was lured back or brought back on some grounds of deception. Can you confirm that?
Staffan de Mistura: I can tell you what I know rather than confirming because I hope the Indian side would discover that. Point number one is what you said is correct. He was there. Point number two he returned not inside the national waters because he was never in national waters. But I will quote instead, I think a senior official of the Kerala Police, who actually very proudly said - "We lured him in".
Karan Thapar: We have lured them in?
Staffan de Mistura: Yes, he said so. I am quoting an Indian policeman from Kerala.
While External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has said there was no "deal" between India and Italy on the marines' return, he has also assured Rome that the duo won't be arrested or given death sentence in the case.
The marines, part of a military security team protecting a tanker from piracy in February, 2012, are accused of shooting two fishermen in Kerala. They had said they fired warning shots at a fishing boat believing it to be a pirate vessel.
The marines returned to India in an Italian air force plane on Friday at 6 pm. Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura was travelling with them.
The two Italian mariners are being accommodated in the Italian Embassy building for now even as the government of Italy stressed that they should enjoy good living conditions during their trial in India. While New Delhi said the marines could serve out their sentence in Italy, Rome signalled it would once again contest India's jurisdiction in court.
"We are happy with the outcome which is consistent with the dignity of Indian judicial process," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said earlier in the day.
India and Italy have been embroiled in a sharply escalating diplomatic row over the marines, who had been allowed to leave India to vote in the Italian elections in February on condition they returned by Friday. However, Rome informed New Delhi on March 11 that they would not be returning to stand trial.