Italy recalls ambassador to India over trial delay

AP News
Posted: Feb 18, 2014 5:09 AM

ROME (AP) — Italy recalled its ambassador to India on Tuesday after the South Asian country's supreme court delayed a decision on trying two Italian marines held without charge since 2012.

Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said in a statement that this "latest unacceptable" delay proved that India was "incapable of handling this situation." She said Italy's main priority was to bring the two marines home and that she was recalling Ambassador Daniele Mancini for consultations.

The marines have been held in India in the deaths of two Indian fishermen. They were part of a military security team on an Italian cargo ship and fired at the fishermen. They said they mistook the two men for pirates. The marines are on bail pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.

India's supreme court was to hear arguments from both sides on Tuesday on whether to try the marines under India's severe anti-piracy statute. But the court delayed the hearing until Monday.

India has ruled out the possibility that the men might face the death penalty, but the marines could face up to 10 years in prison under the statute.

Italy has objected for two years over India's handling of the case, insisting at the outset that the firing occurred in international waters and that Italy had jurisdiction over the case. It has denounced India's planned use of the anti-piracy statute, saying it was "absolutely out of proportion" with the purported crime and implied that Italy was a terrorist country.

The Italians have tried to rally international support for its cause. Recently the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the EU was "deeply worried" about the decision to use the anti-piracy statute.