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Italy reacts harshly to Indian charges against marines

English.news.cn   2014-02-11 01:55:49

by Alessandra Cardone

ROME, Feb. 10 (Xinhua) -- Harsh reactions have been triggered in Italy on Monday, after prosecutors in India asked the Supreme Court to charge two Italian marines suspected of killing two fishermen under anti-terrorism law.

"The terrorism charge is completely unacceptable, it would mean Italy is a terrorist country," Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino declared on Monday.

She did not rule out an appeal to the UN International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, if the Indian Supreme Court confirms the charges.

"These are feasible roads. All options are on the table," Bonino said in Brussels, before discussing the case with European Union (EU) partners.

"I am sure the European Union will react," she was also quoted as saying by the Foreign Ministry website on Monday.

Despite heavy diplomatic pressure exerted by Italian authorities for months, the Indian Attorney General confirmed before New Delhi Supreme Court on Monday his request to try Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre under a severe anti-piracy and anti-terrorism act.

The Supreme Court decided to adjourn the hearing, and it is now expected to validate or reject the request on Feb. 18. Indian authorities have excluded death penalty, but the marines could still face up to 10 years in jail if charges are confirmed.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta commented harshly on the news.

"The charge of terrorism is to be fully rejected. Italy and the European Union will react," he twitted from the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

His office in Rome issued a statement, slamming further Indian prosecutors' decision.

"The charge (of terrorism) is absolutely overblown and incomprehensible. Italy is not a terrorist state and it reserves now the right to undertake any sort of initiative," the statement said.

The cabinet's statement added that, if confirmed, the decision would have negative repercussions both in India's relations with Italy and the EU, and on the global fight against piracy.

The two Italian marines were part of a military mission protecting a privately owned Italian-flagged cargo ship from piracy off the Indian coasts.

They were arrested in February 2012 for opening fire on a fishing boat approaching the cargo. Two Indian fishermen were killed in the incident. The marines, alleging that they have mistaken the boat for a pirate vessel, denied killing them or aiming directly their shots at their boat.

The case, however, sparked a long and bitter diplomatic dispute between the two countries. Italy has sought EU and international solidarity to put pressure on New Delhi.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the case "has an impact on the whole European Union."

Yet, according to some local media, international support may not have been as strong as expected so far.

In an analysis on the main Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, special correspondent Alberto Negri wrote on Monday that "the idea of Italian marines being accused of terrorism should have sparked outraged reactions from EU, UN, and NATO, given the efforts Italy has been putting to fight piracy and terrorism."

Italy is currently contributing to two international anti-piracy missions, the analyst recalled, with 500 men and 50 million euros (about 68 million U.S. dollars) per year.

"The country has paid a high price in blood in peace-keeping, anti-terrorism, and anti-piracy missions," Negri pointed out.

"This lack of firm reactions by those same organisations tackling terrorism is now quite incredible," he concluded.

Editor: Mu Xuequan
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