Italy warns India of European response to marines trial

Italian envoy Staffan de Mistura after court hearing at Supreme Court, in New Delhi (10 Feb 2014) Italy's Staffan de Mistura said India's decision was "unacceptable"

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Italy has reacted angrily to an Indian decision to try two Italian marines, accused of killing two fishermen, under an anti-piracy law.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta said the proposal was unacceptable. "Italy and the European Union will react."

The marines, who had been guarding an Italian oil tanker, said they mistook the men for pirates when they opened fire off the Kerala coast in 2012.

India's Supreme Court has announced it will hear the case next week.

The lengthy diplomatic spat began in February 2012 when Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone were first detained on suspicion of murder.

They were eventually allowed to return home for a four-week period to vote in the February 2013 elections.

Rome initially refused to return them, arguing they should be tried in Italy because the incident took place in international waters.

The marines eventually flew back to Delhi in March 2013.

Italian marines Massimilian Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone (R) Massimilian Latorre (L) and Salvatore Girone have been staying at the Italian embassy in Delhi

Italy's deputy foreign minister Staffan de Mistura, speaking outside the Supreme Court in Delhi on Monday, said the decision to charge the marines under the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) maritime security law was "unacceptable".

It was tantamount to labelling a friendly country and its two military representatives as "terrorists", he said,

Mr Letta tweeted on Monday that the Italian government "totally rejects the use of the concept of terrorism".

Indian authorities had originally planned to use part of the SUA that would have brought the death penalty but said on Saturday it would use a different section that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

Marines Latorre and Girone are currently on bail at the Italian embassy in Delhi.

Italy has complained at the slow progress of the case. India says the delay is down to witnesses who were on board the ship with the marines failing to return from abroad to provide evidence.

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