India

Italy marines to face Indian law, says minister

Salvatore Girone (centre) and Latorre Massimiliano (left), marines aboard the Enrica Lexie, at the guest house of the Central Indian Security Force, in the southern Indian city of Kochi - 20 February 2012
Image caption The two marines were arrested on Sunday and remanded in custody

Two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen will be tried according to Indian law, deputy foreign minister Preneet Kaur has said.

She spoke after talks with her Italian counterpart Steffan de Mistura.

The two marines were on board an Italian oil tanker off southern India.

Italy says as the incident took place in international waters the men should be tried in Italy. Officials say the fishing boat was behaving aggressively and was mistaken for a pirate vessel.

Italian officials have asked the High Court in the state of Kerala to throw out the murder charges against the two marines.

The marines were detained on Sunday and remanded in custody for two weeks as the murder investigation against them continues.

'Terribly sad'

"As far as the law point is concerned," Ms Kaur said, "they have their interpretations and we have our interpretations.

"As of today, the two people [Italian marines] are on Indian soil and tomorrow the Indian court is going to decide what steps are to be taken further," she said.

"So far as we are concerned in India, we certainly will go by our law."

Mr Mistura expressed his regret over the two Indian fishermen's deaths, but said there were legal points that needed to be clarified, including the exact position of the ship when the two men died.

Image caption The shooting incident has heightened diplomatic tensions between the two countries

"We do acknowledge that two Indian citizens died... and we are terribly sad. The second one is that is that the incident took place in international waters and at the same time the investigations will assert the exact position," he said.

"We all want the truth," he added.

Italy's defence ministry has said the fishing boat was behaving aggressively and ignored warning shots fired from the Italian oil tanker.

They said they opened fire after mistaking the fishermen for pirates. India said the fishermen were unarmed.

The incident took place off the coast of Kerala last Wednesday.

It sparked a major diplomatic row between the two countries. The Italian foreign ministry has said Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi will also visit Delhi next week to discuss the issue.

A delegation of experts from Italy's foreign, defence and justice ministries has already visited Delhi to discuss the case with Indian officials, but the two sides have so far been unable to resolve their differences.

The Italian foreign ministry also said that Indian police had taken "coercive" and "unilateral" action on Sunday when they escorted the two marines off the oil tanker where they were deployed as security guards and arrested them, news agency AFP reported.

Italy insists that its personnel cannot be charged under Indian law. It says the marines have immunity as the tanker was flying an Italian flag and was in international waters when the incident happened.

The marines have been identified as Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone.

The Enrica Lexie was on its way from Singapore to Egypt, with a crew of 34, including 19 Indians.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites