In a bid to persuade India to hand over its two arrested marines charged with murder for killing two fishermen, Italy told the Kerala High Court on Thursday that it has initiated criminal proceedings against them under its law that could lead to a prison term of not less than 21 years.

The police custody of the two Italian marines Latorre Massimiliano and Salvatore Girone was meanwhile extended till March 5 by a Kollam court on Thursday. The two accused have been in police custody since February 20.

A communication from the Deputy Attorney Dr. Eliza Betta Cenicola stating that as per Article 575 of Italian Penal code whoever causes death of a person was punishable with a prison term of not less than 21 years was filed in the High Court by counsel for the Italian government and the two marines.

During the proceedings in the High Court, Justice P.S. Gopinathan pointed out “serious defects” in the plea filed by the Italian government, seeking quashing of FIR against the two marines and sternly told them it will look into the petition only after these are “cured”.

The Italian government should not have an impression that the Indian judiciary was so loose that anyone could file a plea before courts, he said.

The judge directed the Consul General to produce necessary documentary evidence to show that the Consulate has the authorisation to represent the Italian government in legal proceedings relating to the killing of the fishermen by the marines on board the cargo ship Enrica Lexie off the Kerala coast last month.

The judge also expressed doubt whether the signature of one of the accused affixed in the affidavit produced before the court was genuine.

Even though senior counsel for the petitioners repeatedly requested the court to look into the documents, the court refused and directed the petitioners to “cure” the defects. Only after “curing” the defects, the documents would be looked into, the judge held.

India maintains that since the incident took place within its waters, the marines must face a trial as per Indian law. Italy has said that as members of the Navy, the marines are entitled to immunity abroad and should be tried in their home country.

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