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Dec 18, 2012 at 05:06pm IST

Fishermen killed: Kerala opposes Italians Marines' plea

Kochi: The Kerala government on Tuesday opposed in the High Court the plea by two Italian marines, accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February, to facilitate their visit to Italy for Christmas, saying it would "torpedo" the trial even as the Centre's response was sought by Wednesday. Hearing the plea of the marines for relaxation of bail conditions, Justice P Bhavadasan directed the Union government to inform by Wednesday whether the assurance given by the Italian embassy on the return of the two marines to Kochi after celebrating Christmas, was acceptable.

The Centre should inform its stand to the court by 1.45 pm on Wednesday, the judge said when a petition by the two Italian marines - Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone - came up. Kerala Director General of Prosecution T Asaf Ali said there are parallel proceedings pending before the office of Public Prosecutor Tribunal of Rome for "intervening" in international waters.

If the government of Italy witholds them for further prosecution of the case, "we have no legal remedy to bring them back", he said. He said their travel to Italy will "torpedo" the entire trial here. However, the marines can travel anywhere in Kerala, he said.

Kerala opposes Italians Marines' plea

The court directed the Centre to inform by Wednesday whether the assurance given by the Italian embassy on the two marines was acceptable.

As per their bail conditions, the marines cannot leave the territorial limits of Kochi Police Commissioner's office and have to stay within 10 km radius from it. He said the relatives and friends of the marines can come down to Kerala to celebrate Christmas.

Justice Bhavadasan asked the state and central governments whether they accepted the authority of Consul General of Italy in India who has sworn in an affidavit assuring return of the two accused. The court also suggested to the petitioners to get in touch with External Affairs Ministry. The DGP said the "remedy is only political and not judicial. If a political decision is taken, it can be accepted".

Italy's Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paolo had on Sunday visited the two marines and hoped the case would be solved in accordance with national laws and international justice. Paolo had also made an appeal for allowing Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone to return to Italy for Christmas.

The state government pointed out that the families of the victims - Jelastine (45) and Ajesh Binki (25) - are also not celebrating Christmas. "I am seeing for the first time so much blood is being shed for the victims," the judge said. Counsel for the petitioners P Vijay Bhanu said the Italian government had given the undertaking.

"It is the nation which gives undertaking (on their return)." The two marines were arrested from the Italian vessel 'Enrica Lexie' on February 19 for allegedly shooting down the two Indian fishermen, mistaking them to be pirates.

The petitioners, who are on bail, said their family members have arranged special mass and prayers and they want to participate in Christmas in the last two weeks of this month. They also undertook to return to India within two weeks from the day of departure.

According to the petitioners, Italy has taken full responsibility to ensure that they comply with the order of the High Court in letter and spirit. They also produced an undertaking sworn by Consul General of Italy in India stating that the two will be kept under 'round-the-clock' custody under the control and supervision of republic of Italy which will take full responsibility for their return. They had sought release of their passports and to facilitate international passage from Kochi.

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