Will Italian marines be allowed to go home for Christmas

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Italian Marines
Kochi, Dec 15: Rome may have demanded a quick decision by the Supreme Court on whether the Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast earlier this year should stand trial in India, but it is the Kerala High Court that will hear next week the marines' plea to allow them to go home for Christmas.

Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre have appealed for permission to attend the special mass and prayers which their families have arranged in Italy. In their petition filed in the high court here yesterday, the marines sought relaxation of bail conditions and promised to come back to India within two weeks of their leaving for Italy.

Not only did Girone and Latorre submit sworn affidavits to the court, the Italian Consul General also gave an undertaking that the Republic of Italy will keep the two marines under 'round-the-clock' custody and ensure that the duo comply fully with the order of the high court.

Girone and Latorre pleaded for their passports to be released so that they can go to Italy. They also asked the court to facilitate their safe passage from here. The high court will hear their petition on Dec 18.

Meanwhile, Italy summoned the Indian ambassador and stressed that before Christmas the Supreme Court must decide where the marines should be tried. Rome issued the following statement: "The Italian government expresses strong disappointment and profound bitterness for the delay - three months - after court arguments have ended."

Claiming that Girone and Latorre had fired at the fishermen in international waters and so the matter is beyond the jurisdiction of courts in Kerala, Rome insists that the marines should appear before an Italian court. Delhi's contention is that since the marines shot dead two unarmed fishermen in a "contiguous zone", Indian law should be applied in the case.

The two victims Valentine Jalastine and Ajesh Binki embarked on their ill-fated journey from Neendakara in Kollam on Feb 15, 2012. The duo put out to sea on a fishing trawler 'Saint Antony'. When it drifted near the cargo ship Enrica Lexie, Girone and Latorre opened fire at the trawler thinking that pairates were attacking the ship. As Jalastine and Binki succumbed to bullet injuries, the Kerala police charged Latore and Girone with murder under Section 302 of the IPC.

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