Special aircraft leaves with Italian marines

Lattore Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, the two marines, had been staying in a hotel in Kochi after being granted bail.

Kochi: The two Italian marines currently on bail here after being charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen, and who were allowed to fly back to their country to celebrate Christmas, left here in the early hours of Saturday.

Even though the marines had reached the Kochi international airport on Friday evening, a fresh letter had to come from their embassy in New Delhi and hence their travel was delayed.

They were supposed to fly back on Friday evening but the letter came only past midnight.

The marines reached the airport for the second time at 2.30 am on Saturday and flew out in a special aircraft shortly after that.

Lattore Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, the two marines, has been staying in a hotel in Kochi after being granted bail. They have been charged with shooting dead two Indian fishermen, Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, on February 15, allegedly taking them for pirates.

In a day of fast developments, Friday saw the arrival of a special aircraft with top Italian officials who dashed off to a court in Kollam along with the two marines to fulfil all requirements so as to get back their passports.

The Kerala High Court ruled on Thursday that the two marines charged with the killing of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February, can be allowed to go home for Christmas.

The rare exemption came thanks to the central government.

The court had caveats too: the marines could be allowed to go, provided they return latest by 3 pm on January 10, 2013, and the Indian government allows them to go. A bank guarantee of Rs 6 crore should also be furnished.

The court ruled that the Indian government should agree to allow them to return to Italy for Christmas, and ensure that the Italian government assured that the two would return to stand trial in India.

Italian officials on Friday accompanied the two marines to the Kollam Magistrate Court to deposit the Rs 6 crore in bank guarantee. An affidavit from the Italian government said it would ensure that the two marines returned to Kochi by January 10, 2013, and also get the clearance of the Indian government.

The Kollam court asked the two marines to report on January 15 for the next posting of the case and released their passports.

Meanwhile, in the Kerala State Assembly on Friday, Leader of Opposition VS Achuthanandan came down heavily on the centre and said the state government should appeal against the High Court verdict that relaxed bail conditions for the two marines.

"Your party has been adopting double standards all along, like in FDI in retail. Look what has been done concerning the relaxation of bail conditions of the Marines. This generosity is shown to the Italian Marines, but our own Abdul Nasir Maudany (jailed Peoples Democratic Party leader facing trial in Bangalore) does not get justice and he is an under-trial prisoner for many years now," Achuthanandan said.

There are reports that Achuthanandan will approach the Supreme Court on Saturday to raise objections in the manner in which the Italian marines were allowed to fly back home.

The Italian consul general expressed happiness that the central government took up the case, and that the judiciary extended this gesture to the two men.

"Yes, the two Italian Marines will return after they spend Christmas at home," the Italian consul general told reporters here.