New Delhi, Mar 22: The two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast returned here today after India gave an assurance that they will not face death penalty nor will they be arrested, bringing to an end a raging 11-day diplomatic row between the two countries.
The marines, Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone, arrested in connection with the killing of the fishermen in February last year returned late this evening in the company of Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Steffan de Mistura in a military plane.
The dramatic u-turn by the Italian government, which had earlier last week said the two marines would not be sent back, enabled the marines to meet the deadline set by the Supreme Court when it gave them permission to go for a month to vote in the elections there.
With the Supreme Court acting tough and restraining the Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving the country, Italy sought and got assurances to enable the marines’ return.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who denied any deal was reached on the issue, told Parliament that Italy had sought “clarifications” on death penalty and other issues which were a matter of “concern” to that country.
“It (Italy) sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the marines on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern.
“Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India,” he said.
India also allayed Italy’s fears by saying that “according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard,” Khurshid said.