Italian President Girgio Napolitano has assured India that his country will honour its commitment to return the two marines, accused of shooting to death two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last, after their two-week visit home that was allowed by the Kerala High Court on Thursday.
According to major Italian newspapers, Mr. Napolitano had, in a teleconference with the marines on Thursday evening after the High Court order, said the commitment would be honoured.
“We respect the commitment of honour made,” the President told the marines who currently stay in a hotel at Fort Kochi, according to la Repubblica. The Italian diplomatic mission in India had, while moving the petition in the High Court seeking a two-week parole for the marines, guaranteed their return to stand trial in Kerala courts for murder.
The President, during the teleconference, reiterated Italy’s position that they could be tried only in Italy. “You were not in the Indian Ocean on holiday, but to protect navigation from the attacks of piracy. You have done your duty, and in any case, your behaviour can only be judged by the Italian justice system,” newspaper Courriere della Sera quoted the President as saying.
Mr. Napolitano told marines Lattore Massimillano and Salvatore Girone that the Italian state had “mobilised all institutions” to help them out. And, underscoring the importance the Italian government attached to the issue, the President invited the two to Palazzo del Quirinale in Rome, the presidential palace, during their two-week stay. “I am very happy to see you and I hope that when you return to Italy in the next few days you will find the time to come to Quirinale,” the President told the marines, as reported by la Repubblica.
Mr. Napolitano reminded New Delhi of honouring its commitment too. “We expect that the authorities in India respect their commitment to a fair consideration of your position,” la Repubblica quoted Mr. Napolitano as saying.
He also expressed the hope that the Supreme Court of India would rule on the jurisdiction question in Italy’s favour.
The High Court decision was front-paged by most Italian newspapers . However, in an opinion piece, La Stampa noted: “The case has pitted Italy and India, which are bound by good business relationship, in a long-drawn battle in the courtroom. On the central question of the story [that is, who has the jurisdiction to try the two murder accused, India or Italy], it is still waiting for the decision of the Indian Supreme Court, which in recent days has delayed it by three months.”
Ignatius Pereira reports from Kollam:
The passports of the marines were released by the Kollam district and sessions court in Kollam on Friday.
The High Court’s conditional permission for the marines to go home for two weeks include a bank guarantee for Rs.6 crore. The marines executed the bank guarantee for the amount in their names through the Kollam branch of Dhanlaxmi Bank and gave a written assurance to adhere to the other conditions.