India extends ban on departure of Italian envoy

AP News

3/18/2013 9:09:09 AM - AP News

NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court on Monday indefinitely extended its order barring the Italian ambassador from leaving the country and rejected his explanation of his country's refusal to return two Italian marines charged with killing two Indian fishermen.

Ambassador Daniele Mancini had given the Indian court a written promise the men would return to India by March 22. Last week Italy announced the men would not go back. The court then barred Mancini from leaving India and asked him to explain his position.

Chief Justice Altamas Kabir responded angrily on Monday when Mancini, through his lawyer, said his promise represented his government's position, which had changed. Kabir said Mancini's pledge was a personal one, and he had violated it.

"We never expected the Italian government to act in this manner," Kabir said.

Mancini also cited his own diplomatic immunity in opposing the court's order. The next court hearing is set for April 2.

The dispute has damaged relations between India and Italy. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said there will be consequences if Italy does not return the two marines. On Monday, India's Foreign Ministry said "the entire expanse of our relations with Italy" was being reviewed.

Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said India was bound by the directives of the Supreme Court and would abide by them.

The marines, Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were part of a military security team on board a cargo ship when they fired at a fishing boat in February last year, killing the two fishermen. The marines said they mistook the fishing boat for a pirate craft.

The court had allowed the marines to leave India in February to vote in Italian elections and to celebrate Easter.

Italy maintains that the shooting occurred in international waters and that Rome should have jurisdiction. India says the ship was in Indian territorial waters.

The Italian Foreign Ministry said last week that Italy would not return the marines because India's decision to try them violated their rights. It added that Italy would be open to international mediation.