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Marines’ trial delay irks Italy

Rome, Dec. 22 (PTI): Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has said the trial of two marines in India in the killing of two Kerala fishermen has run into “difficulty” because of the coming general elections in that country.

“Sometimes it seems that we are the only nation where elections can create problems. (But) they also create trouble in India,” Napolitano told marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone during a video-conference.

“A (fast-track) trial had been proposed to us, a proper and swift trial which has now encountered difficulty because we are near the Indian elections,” the President was quoted as saying by Italian news agency Ansa.

Ahead of Christmas, he tried to comfort the marines, telling them the entire country was with them.

Latorre and Girone allegedly shot dead two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year, sparking diplomatic tensions between India and Italy.

The marines, deployed on board Italian-flagged oil-tanker MV Enrica Lexie to guard it, apparently mistook the fishermen for pirates. They are staying in the Italian embassy in New Delhi, awaiting trial.

Rome wanted to try the marines in Italy claiming the incident took place in international waters. However, Delhi said the victims were Indians and on board an Indian fishing boat during the incident.

A delay in deciding how to interrogate four Italian witnesses had stalled investigation for some time.

The problem was, however, overcome in November when Indian investigators interrogated the witnesses via video-conference in the Indian embassy in Rome.