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No death penalty for Italian marines as Centre drops anti-piracy charge

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No death penalty for Italian marines as Centre drops anti-piracy charge
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New Delhi: The Centre on Monday clarified its stand in the Italian marines case to the Supreme Court and informed it they will not be prosecuted under the anti-piracy law exempting them from death penalty.

The case pertains to the killing of two Indian fishermen allegedly by the marines on board Enrica Lexie off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012.

The two officers had contended that they had apprehended a piracy attack. The marines were arrested on February 19, 2012.

The apex court also has agreed to examine the Italian government's plea challenging jurisdiction of the National Investigation Agency to probe the marines' case, PTI reported.

The law ministry on Saturday had concurred with the external affairs ministry on non-applicability of a controversial anti-piracy law which has been strongly contested by Italy.

The law ministry was of the view that the Suppression of Unlawful Acts (SUA) against the safety of maritime navigation should not apply in the case against the two Italian marines who have been accused of killing two Indian fishermen two years ago, sources said.

The Supreme Court had asked the government to sort out differences on applicability of SUA.

During the last hearing on February 18, attorney general GE Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that the government is waiting for the law ministry's opinion on the issue. The Italian government is strongly contesting the applicability of SUA.

In a petition in the SC, it has argued that invoking of SUA "would tantamount to the Republic of Italy being termed a terrorist state and acts of its organs, which were in repression of piracy, as being deemed as acts of terrorism, which is wholly untenable and unacceptable in the facts and circumstances of this case and in keeping with the comity of nations and international cooperation".

Italy on Tuesday last week recalled its ambassador from India in protest over delay in the legal proceedings against the two Italian marines.

Appearing for marines Lattore and Girone, senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi had told the court the two could not be tried under the SUA.

Agencies

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