If convicted, Italian marines can serve jail term at home

FP

The two Italian marines being tried for the alleged murder of two Kerala fishermen last year would have the option, if convicted, of serving their sentence in their home country, thanks to a recent agreement between India and Italy allowing the repatriation of their nationals lodged in the jails of the other country.

An agreement on transfer of sentenced prisoners between India and Italy became operational on December 17 last year following its ratification by both the countries.

The two Italian marines, Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, can now exercise the option of serving their sentence in Italy, if and when they are convicted by an Indian court. The two are accused of gunning down two Kerala fishermen on a fishing boat, about 20 nautical miles off the Kerala coast, on February 15 last year, in an apparent case of mistaken identity. The Italians claim that they opened fire because they suspected the fishermen to be pirates.

The agreement with Italy was signed in January last year, about a month before the incident.

After the incident, the Italian government acted with a sense of urgency to get the agreement ratified by their parliament, and the two countries were able to exchange the ratification documents in December last year.

Apart from the two marines, there are three other Italian nationals currently serving jail terms in India. The agreement does not apply to convicts who have been sentenced to death. Neither can the convicts exercise this option till the court of final appeal in the country in which the crime has been committed has settled the case.

In the case of the Italian marines, the Supreme Court had last month ordered that they would be tried by a special court constituted by it and not by the Kerala court. The apex court ruled that the Kerala court did not have jurisdiction over the case as the crime happened outside India's territorial waters, in an area known as the Exclusive Economic Zone in which only the central government has the jurisdiction. A special court is still to be constituted.

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