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Italian marines back to face murder trial

Suspects keep pledge to return after Christmas reporter, Kochi

January 4, 2013

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Two Italian marines have made good their pledge and returned to Kerala in southern India to stand trial for murder, after celebrating Christmas and New Year at home with their families.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone arrived back in India on a charter flight early this morning, one of their lawyers, P. Udyabhanu, said today.

The pair are accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen.

They claim they mistook the fishermen for pirates trying to attack the Enrica Lexie, an Italian oil tanker they were guarding off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

The Italian government has backed the two marines saying the incident happened in international waters, but Indian authorities claim the vessel was within its territory.

On December 20, a court granted the Italians permission – on a US$ 1.1 million bond - to return to Italy to celebrate Christmas with their families and directed them to return to the port city of Kochi before January 10.

After their arrival, the marines appeared before Kochi police commissioner K. G. James and then went to Kollam, 135 km from Kerala’s commercial capital, to surrender their passports to the district sessions court where the trial will commence on January 15.

“They have complied with the orders of the High Court and they have no intention to avoid trial,” said C.S. Nair, the marines’ defense counsel at the Kollam court.

The request to allow the marines to return home was initially opposed by the Kerala government which claimed the pair would not return.

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