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Italy's defence minister visits marines facing trial in Kerala

December 16, 2012 20:10 IST

Italy's Defence Minister Giampaolo Di Paolo on Sunday visited the two Italian marines who are facing trial in a Kerala court for the killing of two Indian fishermen.

Paolo also made an appeal for allowing Massimiliano Latore and Salvatore Girone to return to Italy for Christmas.

"We respect and I do respect the Supreme Court of India. We are confident that the case will be solved according to national laws and international justice," Paolo, who was in Kochi to meet the marines, told reporters.

Italy had summoned the Indian ambassador in Rome a couple of days ago to insist that the apex court issue a decision soon on its two marines.

The minister, who was flanked by the two marines dressed in suits, said, "I came here to meet the two Italian marines. They are in active duty. It is my responsibility to come here. They are still in a mission. They are supporting a mission," the minister said.

Di Paolo, who arrived by a chartered aircraft from Herat, a province in Afghanistan, said, "I came here from Afghanistan where I met other (Italian) soldiers. In the same way, I came here to say hello (to the marines)."

Asked if he was confident that the marines would be able to visit Italy for Christmas, Di Paolo said, "Nobody more than India understands the value of celebrating Christmas. For us Christmas is a time for festivity. So you understand, how much we want them to go back, to be with their families and parents. I am confident that the Indian people will understand".

The marines have moved a petition in the Kerala high court seeking relaxation of their bail conditions to enable them to visit their families.

The Supreme Court had earlier reserved its verdict on the Italian government's plea challenging the jurisdiction of Indian courts to try the marines.

The two marines on board the Italian ship Enrica Lexie had allegedly shot dead Jelastine and Ajesh Binki off Alapuzha coast on February 15.

They were detained on February 19 and were sent to the Central Prison in Thiruvananthpuram. They were granted bail in June but on the condition that they must remain in Indian territory. The two are currently residing in a hotel in Kochi.

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