Italian marines return to India, tension eased

Italian marines return to India, tension eased

NEW DELHI - The Associated Press
Italian marines return to India, tension eased

Indian activists demonstrate against the government’s handling of the two Italian marines on trial for murder as marines flew back to India to face charges. AFP Photo

Two Italian marines facing trial in the killing of two Indian fishermen have returned to India.

The Italian government said it decided to return the men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, after receiving written assurance from Indian authorities that their “fundamental rights” would be respected, reversing an earlier decision that had escalated diplomatic tensions between the nations.

The sailors arrived back in India on March 22 aboard an Italian air force plane. The pair, who agreed to the decision, were to leave immediately and will reside in the Italian embassy in New Delhi, officials said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the government was “very happy” with Italy’s decision.

India’s foreign minister, Salman Khurshid, said the relationship between the two countries was back on track as the decision stirred anger in Italy and calls for Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi to resign.

The marines were on anti-pirate duty aboard a cargo ship off India’s coast in February last year when the fishermen, aboard an Indian fishing boat, were killed. The Indian Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the government in consultation with the chief justice. The case had turned into a spat between India and Italy, with the Indian Court announcing that the Italian ambassador could not leave the country.