Rome, March 22: Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said Friday that a diplomatic row over returning the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen had been “necessary” to make sure the two men did not face the death penalty.
“The situation is normalising,” Xinhua quoted Terzi as telling the local media.
Without buying time for talks by reneging on a pledge to return the two marines after a permission to vote in Italy’s February elections, the minister said: “We would not have been able to negotiate the current conditions, which envisage conditions of everyday living and the guarantee that the death penalty will not applied.”
But the Italian government’s surprise u-turn drew criticism Friday with former premier Silvio Berlusconi’s senate whip Maurizio Gasparri, who called it “pitiful and inept”.
The mayor of Bari, one of the marines’ hometowns, called it “indescribable”, Xinhua said.
On Thursday evening, the Italian government said it had asked and obtained from India written guarantees of the treatment and the recognition of the marines’ fundamental rights as recognised by international law.
The two marines — Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — had been held in India since February 2012 after a shooting incident in international waters in which two Indian fishermen, Jelestine Valentine and Ajesh Binki, were killed.
Italy has always denied that India has jurisdiction over the case, as it took place in international waters.
As a sign of good will, the two marines were allowed by India to return to Italy to spend Christmas with their families and were allowed back again to vote in the elections.
But the two men did not return to India and the Italian ambassador to New Delhi was not allowed to leave the country by the Indian Supreme Court.