New Delhi: The two Italian marines, Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone, charged with killing two Indian fishermen are set to return to India. While India has called it a diplomatic victory, it has also assured Italy that the marines will not be arrested on their return and neither will they face death penalty as the case is not a rarest of rare case.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has made a statement in Parliament. He has told Parliament that the two marines are on their way back and also informed that notwithstanding pending proceedings, the government has assured the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within time frame laid down by the Supreme Court.
Embassy sources have told CNN-IBN that the marines will be taken straight to the Italian Embassy and will be available to face trial by a special court set up by the Supreme Court. The marines are being escorted by Italy's Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura. Sources say there is a possibility that the marines could serve their prison term in Italy.
The trial of the marines cannot be expected any time soon. There are complex legal issues to be sorted out first between Italy and India. The Italians are bound to question the legality of the marines' detention in India as Italy says the shooting of the Indian fishermen did not take place in India waters.
Reacting to Italy's decision to send back the marines, the Bharatiya Janata Party said it was a result of combined efforts of the Opposition, the government and the Supreme Court. "Must say the combined effort of the Opposition to persuade the government to carry on its diplomacy seems to have worked. The tough stand taken by the Supreme Court also had its impact," BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.
As BJP took credit for Italy's decision to send back marines, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "If the government's diplomacy succeeds and BJP takes credit, I have no problem. But, ultimately it's the government's diplomacy which has succeeded." Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "Marines are coming back as per the Supreme Court's direction. We welcome the move, which is consistent with dignity of the judicial process of India."
The Italian government on Thursday said that the marines will be sent back to India on Friday. Italian authorities said that the decision was taken after they requested and received a written assurance from the Indian government regarding the treatment and protection of the marines' fundamental rights. An official statement from Rome said, "The Italian government requested and received a written assurances from the Indian authorities regarding the treatment of the marines and the protection of their fundamental rights."
Italy's decision to not send the marines back had sparked a diplomatic row earlier this month. India had warned Italy of dire consequences if the marines were not returned and the tough stance seems to have forced the Italian government to reverse its position.
The Supreme Court had also taken a tough stance barring Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India. Coming down heavily on Mancini while hearing the case of the Italian marines, the Chief Justice of India Altamas Kabir had not only restrained him from leaving the country till further orders, he also added that a person who comes to the court and gives an undertaking has no immunity.
The Supreme Court also said that that it had lost all trust in the Italian ambassador while adjourning the matter till April 2. The court had ruled that no further affidavits will be accepted from the Italian ambassador on whether he wants to leave the country.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week termed as "unacceptable" Italy's refusal to send its two marines back to India and said the issue will be taken up with that country. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had also spoken out strongly saying that no country should take India for granted.