Marines case: Italy protests ‘delay’, recalls envoy

(The Times of India)
NEW DELHI: Accusing India of behaving in an ambiguous and unreliable manner on the issue of its two marines charged with murdering a couple of fishermen off Kerala, Italy on Tuesday recalled its ambassador, Daniele Mancini, to Rome "for consultations''. It also summoned Indian ambassador to Italy Basant Gupta to register a strong protest against the manner in which the trial in the Supreme Court has been delayed. 

After the apex court postponed the case for further hearing on February 24, the Italian foreign ministry reacted by saying this was "yet another unacceptable, deliberate delay'' and ordered ambassador Mancini to immediately depart for Rome. 

According to Italian news agency ANSA, foreign ministry secretary-general Michele Valensise conveyed to Gupta that the case showed "an Indian desire to draw out the affair beyond all limits". 

"The Indian judicial authorities' delaying tactics — two years on from the incident — are unacceptable and indicate an Indian desire to procrastinate beyond all limits," said the Italian official in a statement. Italy's foreign minister Emma Bonino said Italy "will continue and intensify action to defend its sovereign rights in line with international law". This is the second time Italy has recalled its ambassador in the case. The first was in May 2012 when the marines were charged with murder. 

"Italy's main aim remains trying to obtain the return of the two marines as quickly as possible," Bonino said. Defence minister Mario Mauro was equally scathing in his criticism, saying Italy was faced with an ambiguous behaviour and a lack of trustworthiness on the part of Indian authorities. 

Italy said the decision to recall the ambassador reflected the feelings of the Italian people. 

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, official sources said the ministry of external affairs has not been informed by Italy about the move. "There is no need for the Italian government to inform MEA if they are calling their ambassador for consultations," an official said. 

The marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are facing murder charges for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012. 

Italy has registered strong protest against India for slapping the provisions of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf (SUA) Act against the marines, asserting that these provisions are slapped against pirates and its marines are not pirates. 

Italy has also lobbied with the European Union and the United Nations in this regard.