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India calls Italy envoy over marine kill dispute

India summoned the Italian Ambassador yesterday to protest at Rome’s decision not to send two marines charged with killing Indian fishermen while on anti-piracy duty back to India for trial.

India’s Supreme Court had allowed Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to return home for four weeks to vote in last month’s general election, provided they returned.

They have not done so and on Monday the Italian Foreign Ministry announced India had not responded to its requests for a diplomatic solution to the case. It said there was now a formal dispute over the terms of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.

The two sailors, part of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie, were accused of shooting the two fishermen after mistaking them for pirates off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012.

The incident has caused a serious diplomatic dispute between Italy and India, which have traditionally had good relations.

“The Government of India states firmly that it does not agree with the position conveyed by the Italian Government on the return of the two Marines to India,” an Indian Foreign Ministry statement said yesterday evening.

“The Italian Ambassador was summoned by the Foreign Secretary today and Government of India’s position on this matter was conveyed to him in the strongest of terms.”

“It was conveyed to the Italian Ambassador that the Italian Government was obliged to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court Order.”

India’s Supreme Court said in a long-awaited ruling in January that India had jurisdiction to try the marines, but Italy has challenged that decision, arguing that the shooting took place in inter-national waters.

The sailors arrived back in Italy on February 23, a day before the country’s election, after India’s Supreme Court granted their request to exercise their right to vote.

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