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Italian lawmakers to visit India over marines case

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Italian lawmakers to visit India over marines case
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Rome: A delegation from the Italian parliament is due to travel to India in a gesture of solidarity with the two Italian marines facing trial for murder there, said a group of politicians.

The chairmen of the foreign affairs and defence commissions of both houses of parliament released a statement late Tuesday in this regard.

“A cross-party delegation will visit Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre in New Delhi and the commission chairmen may meet their Indian counterparts during the mission," the statement said.

"It is aimed at expressing to them (the marines) the solidarity of the parliament and of Italy," the statement added without setting a date for the mission.

India's Supreme Court will next Monday consider a plea from lawyers of the two marines to release Girone and Latorre, citing extensive delays in starting any trial, according to legal documents cited by the media.

The pair have been in custody for almost two years on suspicion of shooting dead two Indian fishermen off the southern state of Kerala in February 2012 but no formal charges have been laid against them.

The petition is the latest twist in the case which last year sparked a diplomatic row between Italy and India after Rome initially refused to send the pair back to India after they were allowed to come home to vote in the February national elections.

Italy only relented when it received assurances from India that the marines would not face execution if convicted, but India's National Investigation Agency wants to charge the pair under a special maritime law which carries the death penalty.

A spokeswoman for European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told journalists Monday it was following the case of the two Italian marines in India "very closely".

EU industry and entrepreneurship commissioner Antonio Tajani tweeted Tuesday urging the EU to halt free trade negotiations with India while the two marines faced the death penalty.

The two marines claim they thought the two unarmed fishermen were pirates and only fired warning shots in the air.

Italy says the incident happened in international waters and the marines should be tried at home while India claims jurisdiction, saying the killings occurred in its own territorial waters.

The case has highlighted the recent practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships as protection against pirate attacks and maritime experts say it is the first test of whether military personnel enjoy sovereign immunity aboard commercial vessels.

IANS

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