India can quiz witnesses in marines case: Italian minister

Rome, Aug 22 : Italy's Defence Minister Mario Mauro has said that Italy would only be happy if prosecutors question the four other riflemen who were guarding an oil tanker with the two Italian marines facing trial in India for murder.

"Italy has not refused to allow the four riflemen to make witness statements," Mauro told Italy's public Radio 1.

"But this can be done here in Italy or via video conference," he said, adding that Indian law did not require the four witnesses to travel to India to give evidence in the case.

Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre are due to stand trial over the killings of two unarmed fishermen in the southern state of Kerala in February 2012.

The marines allege they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

"It is to be hoped that Italy and India's behaviour is transparent over this matter and that a rapid and equitable solution is found," Mauro said in the radio programme broadcast Wednesday.

"We continue to raise the issue of jurisdiction," he noted.

Italy claimed the incident took place in international waters, meaning India should not have jurisdiction over the case.

New Delhi in March refused to allow Italy's ambassador to India to leave the country amid an escalating diplomatic row that erupted between the two countries when Rome broke a promise to return Girone and Latorre to India for trial after India granted them a month's home leave.

The row was defused when Italy sent back the two marines - who had been allowed home to vote in national elections - after receiving assurances they would not face the death penalty.

No trial date has so far been set for the pair.

Indian media reported earlier this week that Italy's refusal to send the four witnesses to India for interviews could delay the conclusion of the probe.

--IANS (Posted on 22-08-2013)

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