x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Trial of two Italian marines in India a 'threat to international cooperation'

Italy's foreign ministry says two Italian marines who fired on fishermen they mistook for pirates should be released from an Indian prison and sent home for prosecution, because they were operating in international water.

DUBAI // The Italian government says international cooperation in the fight against piracy may be jeopardised if no resolution is reached soon concerning two marine officers held in India.

Two Italian officers, Latore Massimiliano and Salvatore Gironi, have been held in an Indian prison since they fired on a suspected pirate vessel on February 15 and killed two fishermen.

"The men were doing their job protecting a vessel that had 27 Indian sailors on board and they conducted their duty in international waters," said Staffan de Mistura, Italian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. "If they have committed a mistake there are formal ways to be conducted."

Mr de Mistura was speaking on the sidelines of the second international counter-piracy conference in Dubai this week.

"We need to solve this problem," he said. "Otherwise, this precedent of international military cooperation against piracy to protect vessels will not be sustainable anymore."

"They have been locked up since February 15 which is a very long time."

Massimiliano and Gironi were on duty guarding Italian merchant vessel Enrica Lexie off the Kollam coast when they allegedly mistook 25-year-old Ajesh Binki from Tamil Nadu and 45-year-old Jelestine from Kerala for pirates.

The Italian government asked in April that the two marines be moved to their home country to face trial.

Mr di Mistura said there should be unified rules of engagement for all antipiracy naval forces. "A unified rule of engagement should be set up and international law should be applied in international waters," he said. "We need cooperation to avoid overlapping and similar situations to this one," he said.

amustafa@thenational.ae