India decides against trying 2 Italian marines under law that carries the death penalty

In this Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 file photo, Italian marines Salvatore Girone, left, and Massimilian Latorre arrive at a court in Kollam, India. India says it won’t invoke a severe anti-piracy law carrying a maximum penalty of death against the two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen. AP Photo, File

ASHOK SHARMA
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW DELHI — India acceded to Italy’s request and said Friday it won’t invoke an anti-piracy law carrying the death penalty when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen.

A Home Ministry official said the government had decided against invoking the law against the marines, who are awaiting trial in India. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to talk to reporters.

India’s top court on Monday had ordered the government to decide within a week whether it would invoke the law. Details of what charges the Italians would face during trial were not immediately known.

The Italians were on anti-pirate duty aboard a cargo ship in 2012 when they fired at the fishermen on an Indian boat, saying they mistook the fishermen for pirates.

Italy had objected to plans by India’s anti-terror agency to invoke maritime laws that carry the death penalty.

The Press Trust of India news agency said the Italian marines would now be prosecuted under the Suppression of Unlawful Act and face imprisonment up to 10 years each, if convicted.

Italy claimed that New Delhi had assured it that the death penalty in India applies only in the “rarest of rare” cases, and the marines’ case did not fall into that category.

Italy has said the shooting happened in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and thus, Rome, not India, should have jurisdiction. But a local Indian court insisted it would investigate and the marines were ordered held in India.

13:41ET 07-02-14

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