Killing of Indian fishermen: NIA may have to question 4 witnesses in Italy

MassimilianoAccused Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone

A team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) sleuths is likely to visit Italy to question four Italian marines who witnessed the murder of two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in 2012.

Despite New Delhi's consistent requests that the witnesses be sent to India, Rome has made it clear that the four will not appear here for their deposition in the case in which two Italians are accused.

The Home Ministry has sought the opinion of the Attorney General in suggesting the next step. Sources within the ministry have, meanwhile, said they were left with only two options that could be admissible by an Indian court. One option is sending the NIA team to Italy after getting Letters of Rogatory from a court. In this case the Italian Police will question the four marines in presence of the NIA team. The second option is taking the statement of the four witnesses under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty, which both countries have signed.

Italy has also provided two options to India — questioning the witnesses through video conferencing or sending a questionnaire to the four marines in Rome. None of these are, however, admissible in an Indian Court.

Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid are said to have no objection in sending the NIA team to Italy.

India has already conveyed to Italy that the delay in questioning the witnesses is jeopardising the future of the two men accused of shooting the Indian fishermen on February 15, 2012— Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone — who are currently lodged in the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.

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