Supreme Court lets Italian marines on murder rap go home to vote

NEW DELHI Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:28pm IST

Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in Kochi January 18, 2013. REUTERS/Sivaram V/Files

Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in Kochi January 18, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Sivaram V/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's Supreme Court on Friday allowed two Italian marines charged with the murder of two fishermen off the coast of Kerala to return home to vote in a parliamentary election this weekend.

The sailors, members of a military security team protecting a cargo ship from pirate attacks, are accused of shooting the fishermen they say they mistook for pirates in February 2012, sparking a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Rome.

"The judges were sympathetic to the marines' request to exercise their democratic right of casting their votes," in the February 24-25 poll, Diljeet Titus, one of the lawyers representing the Italians, told Reuters.

Last month, the Supreme Court said in a long-awaited ruling that India had jurisdiction to try marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, setting the stage for a criminal trial that could further sour ties between India and Italy.

Italy had challenged India's right to try the two, arguing that the shooting had taken place in international waters.

"It is a very positive development and I feel great satisfaction," Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi said in a statement.

"It allows our two boys to exercise their right to vote and to spend four weeks with their family in Italy, and the decision confirms a spirit of trust and cooperation with the Indian authorities that gives us hope for a positive outcome."

The Italians spent Christmas in Italy, after a Kerala court allowed them to join their families for the holiday, on condition they returned to India by January 10, which they did.

The marines are held at the Italian embassy in New Delhi and report to a police station once a week.

(Reporting by Annie Banerji; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Alistair Lyon)

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