Martedì, 23 Ottobre 2018
NAPLES

Marines returned to India willingly, defence minister says

English
© ANSA

Naples, March 28 - Two Italian marines who were
sent back to India to face homicide charges did so willingly,
Italian Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paola said Thursday.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were sent back
to India to be tried for allegedly killing two Indian fishermen
they mistook for pirates on Friday, in a U-turn after Rome had
said they would not return after being allowed to come home to
vote.
Rome had previously respected a pledge to return the pair
after a Christmas break.
The decision to hand them back, after a diplomatic tussle
in which the Italian ambassador was blocked from leaving India,
split the government and Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi resigned
earlier this week saying his view they should not be returned
had not been listened to.
Premier Mario Monti suggested Terzi had an ulterior motive
in quitting, possibly eyeing a political career with ex-premier
Silvio Berlusconi's centre-right People of Freedom party, which
has been strident in its patriotic stance that the marines
should be kept in Italy.
Di Paola criticised Terzi for quitting and said he would
not abandon "the ship or the marines".
On Thursday he denied reports that the marines had been
unwilling to return to India for trial.
''It's not true that Salvatore and Massimiliano took five
hours to agree with this decision. They were not just obeying
orders, but also their sense of duty and responsibility. They
honored their word'', Di Paola said in a speech during
celebrations for the 90th anniversary of the Italian Air Force.
''They respected their uniform in spite of their pain,
pushing back their own emotions and those of their families'',
the minister added.
The Monti government returned Latorre and Girone after
getting assurances they would not face the death penalty for
allegedly shooting southern Indian fishermen Jelestine Valentine
and Ajesh Binki while guarding the oil tanker Enrica Lexie.
They are set to be tried by a special court empowered to
hand out sentences no longer than seven years, and may return to
Italy to serve their time if convicted.
Some media outlets have linked the marines' case to
corruption allegations surrounding a $748 million deal for the
purchase of 12 Italian helicopters, a contract that the Indian
government is now threatening to scrap.

photo: Di Paola (left) and Terzi

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