Contoversy

Italian-Indian standoff

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Italy claims that the incident did not occur in Indian waters

The two marines who the Italian government refused to return to India, Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are wanted for the killing of two Indian fishermen. They shot the fishermen on 15 February 2012, off the coast of southern India, from aboard a merchant ship. They had mistaken them for pirates.

A diplomatic row between the two countries ensued when the Indian Government arrested the two marines. While Indian authorities claim that the shooting occurred in the contiguous zone (this zone lies up to 24 nautical miles from the shoreline and falls within the jurisdiction of the coastal government), Italy claims that the incident did not occur in Indian waters and thus the marines cannot be tried by an Indian court. A number of meetings between authorities from the two governments were held last year, but the Indian Government refused to release the marines.

On 18 January this year, the Supreme Court rejected the Italian plea that the shooting occurred in international waters. It ruled that the incident occurred within the contiguous zone and that a special Indian federal court would be set up to try the two.

Late last year, the two were permitted, on the assurance of the Italian government, to visit home on bail for two weeks during the Christmas break. However, this time— allowed to visit Italy to vote in its general election—the Italian government reneged on its promise and refused to send the two back. The Italian ambassador in India, Daniele Mancini, had in fact filed a sworn affidavit with the Supreme Court promising to take the responsibility of securing the return of the two marines to India on or before the expiry of their leave period.

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