India closes criminal cases in 2012 shooting


Massimiliano Latorre (centre-left) and Salvatore Girone (centre-right). File photo

Massimiliano Latorre (left) and Salvatore Girone (right) were arrested for murder in 2012

India’s Supreme court has closed criminal cases against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in February 2012.

Last year, an international arbitration court said that Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre are entitled to immunity from prosecution.

But the panel also said India was entitled to claim compensation.

The Indian government decided to accept the ruling and petitioned India’s top court to close the pending cases.

The court said in April that the cases would be closed only after Italy pays the compensation amount – 100m rupees ($1.3m; £1m) – that was mutually agreed between the two countries.

The two-judge bench said on Tuesday that it was satisfied with the compensation paid by the Italian government.

But the high-profile case strained relations between Rome and Delhi for years.

The two marines were guarding an Italian oil tanker off the coast of the south-western state of Kerala in 2012 when they fired on the boat carrying the fishermen.

The marines said they mistook the fishermen for pirates – and Italy argued that the firing happened after the fishermen had failed to heed warnings to stay away from the MV Enrica Lexie tanker.

But the marines were arrested by Indian authorities in 2012 and were charged with murder. But India ruled out using the death penalty if they were found guilty.

With the trial pending, the two men were held in custody in India for some years before being allowed to return to Italy – Latorre went back in 2014 and Girone in 2016.

The jailing of the marines led to a diplomatic row between India and Italy, and in 2015, the two countries took the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague.

In July last year, the PCA said the marines were immune to prosecution in India but should face trial in Italy.

Rome has also insisted that as the shooting took place in international waters, the men should be tried in Italy. But India argued it had jurisdiction.

The PCA, however, ordered Italy to pay compensation to India “for loss of life, physical injuries, material damage to the vessel and moral harm suffered by the commander and crew of the fishing vessel”.

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