Italian marines depart for home after getting Christmas reprieve from court

Kochi, Dec 22: Two Italian marines charged with killing two fishermen off the coast of India left for Italy to spend Christmas at home, after an Indian court accepted a plea by the sailors to be allowed to join their families for the holiday season.

The two Italian sailors, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, members of a military security team protecting the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks, shot the fishermen they say they mistook for pirates off the Kerala in February, sparking a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Rome.

Latorre and Girone are out on bail in Kerala, but the court had not allowed them to leave the country. They will be required to hand over 60 million rupees (676,200 pounds) as a bank guarantee to the court before leaving.

The sailors, awaiting trial in New Delhi’s Supreme Court in connection with the shooting, have to report back to India on January 10.

The Kerala state government opposed the sailors’ request, suspecting Italy of trying to smuggle the men out of India and feared that the sailors may not return.

Last week, Italian authorities summoned India’s ambassador in Rome and expressed “strong disappointment” that the Supreme Court had delayed a decision on where the men would face trial.

Indian authorities accuse the sailors of killing unarmed fishermen in a “contiguous zone” where Indian law applies. (ANI)