India fishermen killings: Italian ambassador is summoned

Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini (left) leaves the Indian foreign ministry on 12 March 2013 Italian Ambassador to India Daniele Mancini (left) bore the brunt of the Indian foreign ministry's anger

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India has summoned the Italian ambassador in Delhi to express its anger over Rome's decision not to send back two Italian marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told the ambassador that Italy's explanation was "unacceptable".

Italy for its part has asked India to set up a meeting of diplomats in order to reach "an amicable solution".

The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen dead in February 2012.

They did so after allegedly mistaking them for pirates.

India's Supreme Court allowed Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone to go home to vote in last month's elections. The marines were ordered to return within four weeks.

But Italy argues that because the case is now the subject of international maritime law, it had been decided that the pair would not return to India "on the expiration of the permission granted to them".

Rome has argued that it wants its nationals to be tried in Italy, saying the incident took place in international waters and that the Indians do not have jurisdiction in the case.

Angry MPs

But the Indian foreign ministry said that this argument has been rejected by Delhi in the strongest of terms.

Start Quote

The Indian government should take every step to retrieve the fugitives immediately ”

End Quote Rajiv Pratap Rudy BJP spokesman

"It was conveyed to [the ambassador] that India expects [the] Republic of Italy as a country that is committed to the rule of law to fulfil the sovereign undertaking given by it to the Supreme Court of India," a ministry statement said.

"It was only following this undertaking that the Supreme Court allowed the two marines to travel to and remain in Italy for a period of four weeks and return to India under the care, supervision and control of the Italian Republic."

The statement said that the Italian ambassador and the Italian government were obliged "to ensure their return to India within the stipulated period as per the terms of the Supreme Court order".

Angry Indian opposition MPs held up proceedings in parliament on Tuesday, demanding the government explain how it would respond.

"This is betrayal and bluff by the Italian government. It is a breach of trust between two sovereign nations and the act is completely unacceptable," Press Trust of India quoted Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a spokesman for the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, was quoted by the Press Trust of India as saying.

"The Indian government should take every step to retrieve the fugitives immediately and conduct [a] trial under Indian laws and in Indian courts," he added.

India says the fishermen, Selestian Valentine and Ajesh Pinky, were unarmed.

At the time of the shooting, the marines were guarding an Italian oil tanker off India's south-western coast.

Italy says that the Indian fishing boat had behaved aggressively and ignored warning shots from their ship, the oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie.

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