No bail for Italian sailors in India despite envoy protests

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Sat May 19, 2012 6:00pm IST

1 of 2. Salvatore Girone (C) and Latorre Massimiliano (3rd R), members of the navy security team of Napoli registered Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie, are escorted as they leave a courtroom at Kollam in Kerala March 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V/Files

Related Topics

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, daughter of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, adjusts her flower garlands as she campaigns for her mother during an election meeting at Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Pawan Kumar

Election 2014

More than 814 million people — a number larger than the population of Europe — are eligible to vote in the world’s biggest democratic exercise.  Full Coverage 

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM (Reuters) - A court denied bail on Saturday to two Italian sailors charged with the murder at sea of two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates, hours after Rome recalled its ambassador from New Delhi in an increasingly surly diplomatic row.

The court rejected the bail pleas on grounds Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone might try to escape, said a public prosecutor in Kerala, where the men are detained.

"The judge accepted the prosecution's apprehension that the accused may escape from the country and tamper with the evidence," D. Mohanraj, a prosecutor handling the case, told Reuters. A lawyer for the defence said they would appeal.

In a further escalation of the spat, India's ambassador in Italy was summoned to the foreign ministry which "firmly signalled the unacceptable judicial developments related to the Italian sailors," the ministry said in a statement.

India says the case of the marines is a matter for the courts and cannot be influenced by political or diplomatic pressure. Italy wants the men tried at home and says the government should intervene.

Italy called back its ambassador for consultations shortly after murder charges were formalised on Friday to express "profound displeasure" with the Indian government's handling of the case.

"We are sending a strong signal to avoid damaging our relationship," said Italy's deputy foreign minister, Staffan de Mistura, on his third mission to India to push for the sailors to be released into Italian custody.

The ambassador was recalled after three telephone calls by Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti to his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh, a visit by Italy's defence minister and his own missions to India, de Mistura told Reuters from Kerala.

An official at India's foreign ministry, who asked not to be identified, said it was unusual that a person of de Mistura's rank would spend so much time on a case of this nature.

"It does not bother us, but he needs to understand that it is not a U.N. job in Iraq or Afghanistan, where hands-on diplomacy might help," the official said.

"It doesn't work here like that, he needs to understand we are slow, things move through a glacial process, but that's how it is, diplomatic pressure won't work."

PIRATE ATTACKS

The two sailors were stationed on a merchant ship passing the Kerala coast and were tasked with protecting it from pirate attacks. They fired warning shots at the fishing boat on February 15, believing it to be a pirate vessel, they said.

Investigators say the fishing boat was unarmed and the shots killed the two fishermen, who were part of a larger crew.

Italy says the incident occurred in international waters and that jurisdiction over the marines should lie with Rome. In April, it paid $190,000 to each of the victims families as compensation. In return, the families dropped their cases against the marines, but the state's case continues.

Latorre and Girone are expected to be moved from prison to a juvenile detention facility in the next few days. The next hearing in the case is due on May 25, Kerala's deputy public prosecutor said on Friday.

Attacks on ships have increased in the eastern side of the Arabian Sea, as better security around the Horn of Africa has pushed Somali pirates to make raids as far over as the Maldives. The waters close to India are generally considered safer.

The marines were charged with murder soon after the incident in February. Under Indian law, initial charges are formalised by police after investigation and before a trial can begin.

One of the murder charges carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, but another can be punished by death, though the central government would have to approve that. India has not used the death penalty for several years.

(Additional reporting by Ross Colvin, Frank Jack Daniel and Matthias Williams in New Delhi and James Mackenzie and Gavin Jones in Rome; Editing by Ron Popeski)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Election 2014

Election 2014

Kashmiris wary as Modi challenges for power.  Full Article 

Facebook's Performance

Facebook's Performance

Facebook Q1 revenue grows 72 percent on rising mobile ads.  Full Article 

Earnings Season

Earnings Season

Bharti Infratel Q4 net profit jumps 64 percent.  Full Article 

Monsoon Forecast

Monsoon Forecast

South Asia monsoon seen below-average to average in 2014 - WMO.  Full Article 

Solar Dispute

Solar Dispute

Green groups urge U.S. to drop solar trade case against India.  Full Article 

Oil Imports

Oil Imports

India to make May-July oil payments to Iran - sources.  Full Article 

Rice Exports

Rice Exports

India may cede top rice exporter spot under Southeast Asian price onslaught.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage