x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Indian court lifts travel ban on Italian envoy after marines are returned for trial

The supreme court has withdrawn an order barring the Italian ambassador from leaving India after the return of two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen.

NEW DELHI // The supreme court yesterday withdrew an order barring the Italian ambassador from leaving India after the return of two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen, news reports said.

The Press Trust of India news agency reported that the court also asked that a special court be set up to try the marines, who returned last month after weeks of diplomatic wrangling.

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were serving as security guards on an Italian oil tanker when they shot the fishermen off the Kerala state port of Kochi last year. They said they believed the pair were pirates.

A senior home ministry official said India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) has been ordered to investigate the case.

The decision to transfer handling of the case follows a supreme court ruling in January that the Kerala government did not have jurisdiction to investigate the shootings.

The NIA, which is tasked with upholding Indian maritime law, "will launch a fresh probe and the case will be heard in a special court", the official said.

The supreme court granted the two men bail to fly home to vote in Italy's recent elections, on condition they were sent back to New Delhi within a month.

Italy agreed and its ambassador, Daniele Mancini, signed an affidavit taking personal responsibility to return them, which led to widespread anger when Rome said it was reneging on the deal.

The bitter diplomatic stand-off ended only when Italy performed a climbdown and returned the marines to New Delhi last month.

Italy had said the pair should be tried at home because the shootings involved an Italian-flagged vessel in international waters, but India said the killings took place in waters under its jurisdiction.

Under a prisoner transfer agreement between the two countries, the marines could serve their sentences in Italy if convicted.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Press