Deputy Foreign Minister seeks speeding up of trial

With pressure from right-wing parties mounting in Italy and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) slapping murder charges on two Italian marines detained here for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti called up External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday to discuss the implications.

On a parallel track, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura met Mr. Khurshid here with more or less the same message — seeking speeding up of the trial, ascertaining the status of the trial court and drawing attention to a homicide case in Rome against the marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — under the Italian penal code.

Government sources said the two Ministers discussed developments in the case following the lifting of the restrictions on the Italian envoy by the Supreme Court and India’s decision to send its Ambassador-designate Basant Kumar Gupta to Rome by this month-end.

Mr. Khurshid also informed the Minister of the steps being taken to comply with the Supreme Court’s directions. It will hear the government’s intentions at the next hearing on April 16.

The NIA has already booked the two marines under the IPC Sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), 427 (mischief), and 34 (common intent). They were also charged under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act, 2002.

It is alleged that the fishermen, Jelastin and Pinku, were shot dead by the two marines onboard cargo ship ‘Enrica Lexie,’ 31 nautical miles off Kerala’s Neendakara coastal police station, in the Arabian Sea, on February 15 last.

The Home Ministry handed over the case to the NIA through an order on Thursday and the first information report (FIR) was filed before the designated Special NIA court on Friday.

Once the charge sheet is filed, the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court will take cognisance, issue summons to the marines and commit the case to the Sessions Court which will become the Special Court for the purpose.

The marines case has gone through several twists and turns and at one stage seemed to have the potential to rupture diplomatic ties with Italy. Shifted to Delhi, the marines were allowed by the Supreme Court to visit their country for four weeks on a commitment by the Italian Ambassador about their return with the stipulated period. However, once the marines were in Italy, the Italian government declared its intention not to send them back.

With the Centre taking a firm stand, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warning Italy of “consequences” and the Supreme Court ordering the Italian envoy not to leave the country as Rome had reneged on his commitment, the marines returned on the last day of the four-week reprieve.

The government has now set up a special court.

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