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Since 1st March, 1999
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Marines charged, Italy calls envoy

Thiruvananthapuram, May 18: The two Italian marines who allegedly shot dead two Kerala fishermen in February were today charged with murder, prompting Rome to call its ambassador back home for “consultations”.

“In the light of the developments in Kerala and the charges against the two Italian servicemen, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, the Italian ambassador to New Delhi, Giacomo Sanfelice has been recalled to Rome for consultations with the government,” the Italian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Massimillano and Girone have been charged under Section 302 of the IPC, which relates to murder, and other provisions. Kerala police’s special investigation team (SIT), which probed the February 15 firing, has also invoked the Suppression of Unlawful Act of International Maritime Navigation against the duo.

The 196-page chargesheet was filed before the chief judicial magistrate in Kollam on a day Staffan de Mistura, the Italian deputy foreign minister, called on chief minister Oommen Chandy and sought a speedy trial. The visitors also held talks with the Latin Archbishop, M. Soosa Pakiyam, here and sought to convey to him that the incident of shooting was the result of a misunderstanding.

The chargesheet said Enrica Lexie, the Italian merchant vessel, was sailing 20.5 nautical miles off the Indian coast when the marines fired on the boat of fishermen Ajesh Binki and Gelastine, allegedly mistaking them for pirates. Massimillano and Girone were held on February 20.

The SIT has listed 60 witnesses in the chargesheet, besides exhibits like the ship’s voyage-data recorder, six Beretta guns, two mini-light machine guns, 1,690 bullets, the deck-log and GPS details. The marines are lodged in the central prison here. Their bail plea is scheduled to come up tomorrow.

Rome insists the incident occurred in international waters and the marines should be tried in Italian courts rather than in India. Mistura, the deputy foreign minister, reiterated the contention after emerging from today’s discussions with Chandy and state home minister T. Radhakrishnan.

The Italian leader, who met the marines in prison yesterday, is learnt to have expressed concern over the lengthy trial process in India.

Mistura was accompanied by Giampaolo Cutillo, the Italian consul-general in Mumbai, and Admiral Franco Faure, the military attache at the embassy in New Delhi.

During his talks with Pakiyam, the Archbishop, Mistura said Italy would do what it could to ensure that ships from his country did not stray into territorial waters.