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Marines accused of murder home for Christmas

Judge relaxes bail but warns Italian suspects reporter, Kochi

December 20, 2012

The High Court in the southern Indian state of Kerala ruled today that two Italian marines awaiting trial for murder could return home for Christmas.

Judge P. Bhavadasan relaxed the strict bail terms on Massimilano Lattore and Salvatore Girone after they submitted a petition, asking the two men to pledge a bank guarantee of 60 million rupees (US$1.1 million) to return to Italy until January 10.

They were previously not allowed to leave the country pending a trial for allegedly shooting and killing two fishermen off the coast of Kerala, an incident which sparked a diplomatic dispute between New Delhi and Rome.

The Italian government has backed the two marines in saying they were in international waters when they shot two men they believed to be pirates trying to attack the ‘Enrica Lexie’, an oil vessel off the coast of Kerala, and has called on the high court to quash the trial.

The Indian authorities claim the vessel was within national waters.

Director General of Prosecutions Azaf Ali, who appeared in court today on behalf of the state of Kerala which opposed the verdict, said the move was a tactical ploy to end the matter.

“If the government of Italy withholds them from further prosecution in this case, we have no legal recourse to bring them back,” he said.

Dora Jelestian, the widow of one of the fishermen, agreed, saying that today’s court decision was “a great disappointment for me and my family.”

P. Udhayabhanu, who represented the marines, told the court they were ready to accept all conditions.

“Italy has no intention to meddle with the Indian judicial system,” he said.

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