Italy pardons US officer, hopes India will grant clemency to marines

Italy pardoned US air force officer involved in CIA abduction of Egyptian terror suspect, hoping India will follow same principle for 2 Italian marines facing murder charges for shooting 2 fishermen.

Rome: Italy, which has pardoned a US air force officer, convicted in absentia last year for his role in CIA abduction of an Egyptian terror suspect, hoped that India will follow the same principle for two Italian marines facing murder charges for shooting two fishermen in India.

President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday pardoned Colonel Joseph L Romano, one of the 23 Americans tried and sentenced by Italy`s top court of appeals over the CIA-led operation to abduct Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from the streets of Milan in 2003.

The Italian President`s office said the pardon was to "find a solution to an affair considered by the US to be uprecedented" and to "solve" a situation involving delicate bilateral relations with a friendly country and ally, Ansa reported.

The statement said Italy hopes to see the same principle is relied upon for the two marines.

India`s National Investigation Agency has booked the marines--Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone--for murder and other charges in connection with the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year.

Concerned over NIA slapping murder charges against the marines, Prime Minister Mario Monti had on Friday called up External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.

The call by Monti followed a meeting between Khurshid and Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura who asked India to keep his government posted on the developments in the matter.

Khurshid had in a clarification to Italy earlier stated that the marines case did not fall under the rarest of rare category to attract death penalty.

Romano was security chief of northern Italy`s Aviano air base where the abducted Egyptian Muslim cleric was taken before being flown out of the country and eventually to Egypt, AP reported.

He was one of 23 Americans convicted in absentia in the case and whose convictions were upheld last year by Italy`s highest criminal court. Three other American had been acquitted in a first trial because of diplomatic immunity, but earlier this year, a Milan appeals court convicted the three, who included a former CIA station chief.