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Marines: latest deferral, Italy recalls ambassador – prosecution awaiting gov. opinion on SUA Act. Unacceptable, says Bonino

On Tuesday morning, the Indian Supreme Court ruled to defer the case of the Marines to Monday 24 February at 14:00 (9:30 Italian time), as it awaits the government’s written opinion on the applicability in this case of the anti-piracy law (SUA Act). Italian foreign minister Emma Bonino recalled the Italian Ambassador in New Delhi, citing this latest postponement as “unacceptable”, and reiterating that Italy would “continue and intensify” its efforts at bringing the Marines home and “obtaining the recognition of our rights as a sovereign state”.

Two years held in India without charge

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone have been detained in India for two years now, accused of killing two Kerala fishermen they mistook for pirates while serving on board the Italian mercantile vessel the “Enrica Lexie” within the scope of an international counter-piracy mission. Nevertheless, the Indian judiciary authorities have yet to formulate charges. Over recent weeks, the Indian Attorney General requested of the Indian Supreme Court that the Italian Marines be tried for the crime of violence (10-year maximum sentence) on the basis of the anti-piracy/anti-terrorism law (SUA Act). The notion that the Italian Marines could be tried for terrorism has raised the strong protests not only of Italy, but also of the European Union and NATO.

Prosecution: awaiting government opinion on applicability of anti-piracy law

Tuesday’s hearing on the case was delayed by 20 minutes due to the absence of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati who, once he arrived, pointed out that the Indian government was re-examining the applicability of the SUA Act, delegating to the Justice Ministry the task of formulating a final opinion on the matter. Not least, he added, because there had been a strong international outcry against the use of the anti-terrorism law.

Defence attorney: Delhi government must decide, Italy is not a terrorist

Taking the floor, the Marines’ defence attorney, Mukul Rohatgi, recalled that over the past year the government had changed its position six times, and that the matter had been dragging on for two years without any charge having yet been formulated. During the Indian attorney’s speech, Italian government envoy Staffan de Mistura rose to his feet to lend symbolic weight to the passage in which Rohatgi repeated that “Italy will not accept being equated with a terrorist State”.

Judge: no more deferrals, government and prosecution must declare position on Monday

Addressing the Indian government representative, Judge B.S. Chauhan insisted that the deferrals could not continue, and set a Monday deadline for the government’s written opinion and offer of a “solution” to the trial of the Marines.

Attorney General: issue in government hands, trying to work it out

The issue of the applicability of the anti-piracy law (SUA Act) in the case of the Marines is in the hands of the Indian Justice Ministry, according to a statement by Attorney General G. E. Vahaanvati to ANSA. “We are trying to work it out”, he explained, “and Monday we will have a final answer to this problem”.

Envoy De Mistura: Italy’s ultimatum, stop delay tactics

“Our response to another postponement is another ultimatum”, Italian government envoy De Mistura stated as he left the hearing. It is not as though India’s delay tactics and minor concessions are going to temper our indignation”.

Defence Attorney: Marines back in Italy to await end of deadlock

De Mistura did not rule out the possibility of the prosecution’s document being filed by Friday, and therefore also examined by Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone’s defence attorneys. Rohatgi also continued by requesting that, as they await the end to the deadlock and the start of the trial, the Marines be authorised to return temporarily to Italy.

Italy recalls Ambassador to India. Bonino cites deferral unacceptable

“The Italian government has ordered the immediate recall to Rome of its Ambassador in New Delhi, Daniele Mancini, for consultations”. This was the announcement by Minister Emma Bonino upon being informed of the latest postponement of the case of the Marines in New Delhi. “Italy takes note of the new unacceptable deferment ruled this morning by the Indian Supreme Court in the case of Italian Marines, Latorre and Girone, and the manifest inability of Indian judicial authorities in handling the case. Italy’s commitment will continue and intensify aiming at obtaining the recognition of our rights as a sovereign state according to international law. Italy’s main objective is to bring our Marines back home as soon as possible”

Defence Minister Mauro also quoted: limit reached, proper to recall ambassador

“The limit has been reached, and even greater is the indignation of the entire nation and that cannot but spread throughout the international community. There is no justice in this case; the Indian authorities’ behaviour is ambiguous and unreliable”, declared Italian Defence Minister Mario Mauro in reaction to India’s latest deferral of the case of the Marines. The minister added that “the Italian government’s decision to recall its ambassador to Italy is not only justified but obligatory, and reflects the sentiments of our people”.

Recall of Italian ambassador is breaking news on Indian TV Tuesday morning

Italy’s announcement that it was recalling its ambassador in New Delhi Daniele Mancini “for consultations”, following the Indian Supreme Court’s latest deferral of the hearing on the Italian Marines, made breaking news on Indian television. CNN-IBN reported that the recall had been decided as a result of the “unacceptable delay in resolving the case”, while Headlines Today described an “intensifying diplomatic dispute (between Italy and India)”.

Indian ambassador urgently summoned to foreign ministry in Rome

Secretary General of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Michele Valensise today summoned the Indian ambassador to Italy, Basant Kumar Gupta, to the foreign ministry in Rome to express the Italian government’s surprise and deep disappointment at the latest deferral by the Indian Supreme Court of the case of Italian Marines Latorre and Girone. The delays by the Indian judiciary authorities, at a distance of two years from the incident, the Secretary General asserted, is unacceptable and an indication of India’s wish to postpone the matter beyond all limits, despite the compelling stances expressed by many international organisations. Ambassador Gupta gave his assurance that the Indian authorities would be informed of the message without delay.