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'India can quiz Italian marines via video-conferencing'

August 22, 2013 20:35 IST

Four Italian marines, who were witnesses to the killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast allegedly by two of their colleagues, will not be sent to India for deposing as witnesses, Defence Minister Mario Mauro has said.

"Italy has not refused to allow the four riflemen to make witness statements. But this can be done here in Italy or via video-conference," the minister said on Wednesday.

He said the Indian law did not require the four witnesses to travel to India to give evidence in the case.

The four marines were on board Italian vessel Enrica Lexie when their colleagues Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone allegedly shot dead two fishermen off the Kerala coast on February 15, 2012, mistaking them for pirates.

The four witnesses had earlier conveyed that they were not ready to come to India for deposition as witnesses, following summons from the National Investigation Agency, which is probing the case.

They said that they were ready for an appearance either through video-conferencing, or a team of the NIA should visit Italy to question them, or the investigators could send them written questions.

"It is to be hoped that Italy and India's behaviour is transparent over this matter and that a rapid and equitable solution is found," Mauro told Italy's Radio 1.

"We continue to raise the issue of jurisdiction," he said.

Italy has claimed since the incident had taken place in international waters, Indian courts have no jurisdiction to conduct the trial.

The Supreme Court had ruled that the incident took place at a distance of nearly 20.5 nautical miles from the coastline of Kerala and, therefore, it occurred not within the territorial waters of the coastline of Kerala state but within the Contiguous Zone.

In May, Italy had appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura as special envoy to work out a fair and balanced outcome of the matter.

While in New Delhi recently, the envoy had told Indian authorities that the four Italian sailors would not be available for interviews by investigators in the case.

Image: Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone

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