Asserting that he would “not abandon the ship or marines,” an emotional Italian Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola ruled out his resignation, and maintained that Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone returned to India willingly to face trial for allegedly killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast.

The Minister denied media reports that the marines were unwilling to return to India. His voice cracked and his eyes watered as he was speaking at a ceremony in Naples to mark the 90th anniversary of the country’s air force.

“It’s not true that Salvatore and Massimiliano took five hours to agree with this decision. They were not just obeying orders but also following their sense of duty and responsibility. They honoured their word,” he said.

“They respected their uniform in spite of their pain, pushing back their own emotions and those of their families.”

The marines were sent back to India on March 22, in a U-turn by Rome, which earlier said they would not return after having been allowed to come home to vote in the country’s general elections.

However, Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi resigned earlier this week, saying his view that they should not be sent back had not been heeded. Mr. Di Paola criticised Mr. Terzi for quitting and said he would not abandon “the ship or the marines.”

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