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India: no death penalty for Italian marines

Activists say decision denies justice to dead fishermen

ucanews.com reporters, New Delhi and Kochi

ucanews.com reporters, New Delhi and Kochi

Published: February 24, 2014 09:38 AM GMT

Updated: February 24, 2014 05:54 PM GMT

India: no death penalty for Italian marines

India’s government today informed the country's top court that it would not cite a severe anti-terrorism law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two fishermen off the southern Indian coast of Kerala two years ago.

Government officials informed the Supreme Court that the law, which carries the death penalty, will not apply in this case.

The Italian marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are awaiting trial for murder. Their Indian lawyers said their clients mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots into the water.

Fishermen associations in Kerala condemned the government’s decision, labeling it an “injustice against the fishermen community".

“India has buckled under Italian pressure and it’s a great treachery. The decision has revealed that the poor fishermen who were killed have been denied justice by its own government. It’s a shame,” T. Peter, president of the Kerala Independent Fishworkers Forum, told ucanews.com.

Sebastian Paul, a senior lawyer in the Kerala High Court, said that the Indian government appears more interested in appeasing the Italian government than in seeking justice for its own citizens.

“From the very beginning of the case, the federal government was against slapping murder charges against the Italian marines," he told ucanews.com.

Federal Defense Minister A.K. Antony, who hails from Kerala, denied allegations that the government was pressured by Italy.

“We are not going to dilute the charges. They will be tried as per the rule of the land,” Antony said on Sunday.

The widow of one of the dead fishermen told ucanews.com that whatever the court decides, it won’t change the fact that her husband is dead.

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"What is the point in hanging them, or putting them behind bars?" asked Doro Jelestine. “Nothing will bring my husband back. I'm simply not bothered about what happens to those people now."

Jelestine said some people believe that the marines should be released because they had already paid 10 million Indian rupees (US$160,000) to each victim and 3 million rupees to the boat owner for damages.

She said the country’s laws should decide whether the marines go free, and that her family will not move the court against it.

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