Kochi: Italian Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola arrived in Kochi on Saturday night to meet the two Italian marines who are facing criminal trial in a Kerala court in connection with the shooting to death of two Indian fishermen off the state's coast in February.
Di Paola, who arrived from Afghanistan, was accompanied by a delegation, police said. The minister, on his second visit to the state this year, is likely to meet marines Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, currently out on bail, on Sunday, sources said.
Italy has been pressing India for the early release of the two marines who have been charged with the killing of fishermen Ajesh Binki and Jelastine off Alapzuha coast. The marines, who were onboard Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie, have maintained that they opened fire on the fishermen mistaking them for pirates. The incident had led to a diplomatic row between the two nations.
The two had on Saturday moved the Kerala High Court seeking relaxation of bail conditions for visiting their homes to celebrate Christmas with their families in Italy. Their petitions will come up for hearing on Tuesday. Italy had summoned India's ambassador to insist that the Indian Supreme Court issue a decision soon on the marines.
Di Paola during his previous visit to the state had met Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and demanded that the government extend the courtesy and rights due to prisoners of war to the marines.