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Italian marines row: BJP accuses government of collusion

March 13, 2013 12:06 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party leader M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday accused the Centre of colluding with Italy over the latter's refusal to send back two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen off the Kerala coast last year.

"The government is involved in this case, as without their involvement, nothing can be done. This matter should be taken very seriously," Naidu said.

"This issue of Italian marines is very shocking because this would not have been possible without the collusion of government. Granting bail to persons for four weeks just to take part in voting is questionable. We don't have any such system in India to give bail just to take part in voting. Earlier, they were given bail for Christiana vacations," he added. He said the BJP would raise the issue in both houses of Parliament on Wednesday.

BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy had earlier said that the Italian government's decision not to send back two of its marines has made both the ruling UPA and India look like a ''banana republic''. "It's a betrayal and a bluff by the Italian government. It is also a bluff to the highest court of land, which is the Supreme Court, which was generous enough to allow them (the marines) to go back to their land for the Italian elections," he added

The Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday summoned Italian ambassador to India Daniele Mancini to convey the government's collective decision that ''contents of note" submitted by the Italian government was not acceptable to India. "I summoned him to my office and basically what I told him is that the contents of note, which was given to us conveying the position of the Government of Italy regarding the two marines is not acceptable to us," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told the media.

Mathai said Italy is obliged under the terms of the assurance given to the Supreme Court that the two marines return within the set timeframe. "There was an offer of discussions, which had been made in a note from the Italians on March 6; that is a separate issue from the assurance, which was given to our Supreme Court on the basis of which it had allowed the two marines to go back to Italy for a short period of time," said Mathai.

This move of the MEA came after Italian foreign ministry made it clear that the marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen would not return to India when their court-allowed leave ends this month.

Terming the last developments as unacceptable, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh earlier told Left MPs from Kerala that he would ask Khurshid to take up the issue with Italy. 

The two Italian marines, Salvatore Latorre and Massimiliano Girone, charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012 after mistaking them for pirates, were permitted by the Supreme Court to go to Italy for four weeks to vote in last month's election. The two were allowed to go home during Christmas. They returned to India on the expiry of their leave.

Source: ANI