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‘Terror state’ poser

New Delhi, Jan. 15: The Italian government and the two marines have moved the Supreme Court to quash terror-related charges against the personnel, arguing the accusations amounted to declaring their country a “terrorist state”.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Shiv Kirti Singh agreed to take up the matter on January 20 after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi today sought an early hearing.

The petition, jointly filed by Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini and marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, also pointed out that the formal trial had not yet commenced even after nearly two years and sought their discharge.

“Invoking the anti-terrorism SUA Act (Suppression of Unlawful Acts against safety of Maritime Navigation) would (be) tantamount to the Republic of Italy being termed a terrorist state and the acts of its organs, which were in repression of piracy, as being deemed as acts of terrorism,” the plea said.

Such a premise, the petition said, is “wholly untenable and unacceptable in the facts and circumstances of this case and in keeping with the comity of nations and international co-operation”.

Latorre and Girone have said they had mistaken for pirates the two Kerala fishermen killed in their alleged firing in February 2012 while on anti-piracy vigil on board an Italian vessel.

In April last year, the apex court had directed the special court set up to try the marines to conduct “day-to-day trial and expeditious hearing”.

Latorre and Girone were allowed to challenge before the special court the jurisdiction of Indian courts and the National Investigating Agency to probe the alleged offence.

The order of January 18 last year by the apex court bench had asked the marines to report once in a week to the officer in-charge of Chanakyapuri police station in New Delhi. Latorre and Girone are staying in the Italian embassy.