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Mar 12, 2013 at 05:07pm IST

Italy says marines won't return; did India let them get away with murder?

New Delhi: India and Italy are set for a diplomatic stand-off after the Italian government refused to send back the two marines charged with the murder of Indian fishermen in Kerala. The Ministry of External Affairs is still processing the statement from Italy.

On Monday evening, the Italian government made it clear that it doesn't intend to send back the two marines. The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, had been allowed to travel to Italy to vote in the elections.

ALSO SEE Two marines charged for killing Kerala fishermen won't return to India, says Italy

In its Foreign Ministry's statement, Italy said that the Indian trial itself was illegal. The statement said, "Italy has always argued that the Indian authorities have violated their obligations under international law." India's MEA is yet to respond, saying simply that it would read the contents of Italy's missive "carefully".

But it's a huge loss of face for the UPA government, that had vowed to bring the marines to justice in a Kerala court for the killing of two Indian fishermen, whom the Italian marines said they mistook for pirates. Since then their fate has been the subject of a tussle between Rome and New Delhi with Italy claiming the killings occurred in international waters and according to the law of the sea they should be tried in Italy.

India contested the claim, taking the marines into custody. Italy then demanded that the Indian government should intervene in the case, which is something India said was impossible.

In February, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "We were asked by the Italian government to intervene, but it was impossible, in a similar way as to when we asked Italy for documents on Finmeccanica."

But on Monday, the Italian government relented, sending the first consignment of documents to India in the VVIP chopper deal. The question now is whether the Indian government relented in the marine case as well and allowed them to get away with suspected murder.