ROME (AP) — The Italian government said on Thursday that it will return to India two marines facing murder charges in the shooting deaths of two fishermen, reversing an earlier decision that had escalated diplomatic tensions between the nations.
The government said it decided to return the men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, after receiving written assurance from Indian authorities that their "fundamental rights" would be respected. Italy says the men would return to India by Friday, the timeframe originally agreed to when they were given permission to travel to Italy to vote in national elections last month.
The pair — who agreed to the decision — were to leave immediately and will reside in the Italian embassy in New Delhi, officials said.
The move overturns a March 11 decision by the Italian Foreign Ministry that the marines would not go back because the decision to try them in India violated their rights.
The Indian Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice. The decision removed the case from the jurisdiction of the southern state of Kerala, near where the shooting took place.
The case had turned into a full-blown spat between India and Italy, with the Indian Supreme Court announcing that the Italian ambassador could not leave the country. Italy insisted that any restrictions on its ambassador's movements violated conventions on diplomatic relations.
The Italian marines were on anti-pirate duty aboard a cargo ship off India's coast in February last year when the fishermen, aboard an Indian fishing boat, were killed.
Italy has insisted the shooting happened in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and Italy should have jurisdiction.