Delay in trial of Italian marines as witnesses don`t appear

The trial against two Italian marines will be delayed as a few foreign witnesses of the case have not yet appeared before investigators.

New Delhi: The trial against two Italian marines, who allegedly killed Indian fishermen off Kerala coast, will be delayed as a few foreign witnesses of the case have not yet appeared before investigators for questioning.

The witnesses were on board the Italian vessel `Enrica Lexie` when the marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone had allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012.

Sources said three of the witnesses were questioned by the National Investigation Agency, which is probing the case following a Supreme Court order, but a few others have not yet appeared before the investigators despite serving notices.

"It is not clear when the remaining witnesses will be available for questioning. It seems they will take some time," a Home Ministry official said, indicating delay in trial of the case.

The Supreme Court had shifted the case to the national capital saying the Kerala Police have no jurisdiction over the case and backed the government`s decision to hand over the case to NIA.

Italy had claimed since the incident had taken place in international water, Indian courts have no jurisdiction to conduct the trial.

However, the Supreme Court had ruled that the incident took place at a distance of about 20.5 nautical miles from the coastline of Kerala and, therefore, it occurred not within the territorial waters of the coastline of Kerala state but within the Contiguous Zone.

The Italian government had in April reversed its earlier decision not to send back to India the two marines who had gone to Italy to cast votes in elections there.

Italy had reneged on its assurance to the Supreme Court on sending back the two marines but later gave in after the Indian government and the apex court took a firm stand with New Delhi warning that ties with Rome could be downgraded.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had said in Parliament that case will not attract death penalty as it was not a rarest of rare case.

In May, Italy had appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura as Special Envoy to work out a fair and balanced outcome of the matter.

India has already conveyed its intent to work out a balanced approach.


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