New Delhi, Feb.5 ANI | 2 years ago

Expressing support for Italy in the Italian Marines case, Germany's Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner, said a smooth handling of the case is in the interest of Italy, India and the European Union (EU).

His statement coincides with the arrival of the German President in New Delhi on a six -day state visit.

"Italy is part of the European Union so we are following this and truly it is on the one hand,a bilateral issue between India and Italy, but of course, we think it is in the mutual best interest of India, of Italy and also Europe that this is solved smoothly, seeing that this is going on since two years," said Ambassador Steiner.

German President Joachim Gauck, accompanied by an 80-member delegation consisting of ministers, members of Parliament and business leaders, arrived in India on Tuesday for a six-day state visit at the invitation of his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee.

Earlier on February 3, special envoy of the Italian government, Staffan De Mistura, called for a speedy trial of the two Italian marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen, an incident that has soured relations between New Delhi and Rome.

The Supreme Court has asked the government to make its stand clear by February 10 on invoking anti-piracy law against the two Italians.

Indian prosecutors had alleged that the two Indian fishermen were shot by Italian marines serving as security guards on an Italian-flagged oil tanker, 'Enrica Lexie,' about 20 nautical miles off Kerala, in February 2012.

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are awaiting trial on charges of murder. Their Indian lawyers say their clients mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots into the water. The two marines do not admit killing anyone or aiming directly at the fishing boat.

The incident highlighted the loosely-regulated practice of placing private and military armed guards on ships for protection against pirate attacks.

India arrested the marines when their ship berthed at an Indian port several days after the incident. It allowed the men to return home to vote in Italy's general election in February last year but Rome then refused to send them back, infuriating New Delhi. Italy reversed its decision after the Indian Supreme Court said the Italian ambassador to New Delhi would be barred from leaving the country.

The case navigates uncharted legal waters. Maritime experts say it is the first test of whether military personnel enjoy sovereign immunity aboard commercial vessels, who should authorise the use of lethal force - the ship's captain or the commander of the security team - and how far out to sea a country's laws can be enforced.

The Italian Government has said that the shooting took place in international waters and that the marines should be tried at home. The Indian government says the marines killed unarmed fishermen on the outer edges of what it says are its territorial waters.

(Posted on 06-02-2014)

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