India allows Italian marines, charged with murder, home for elections

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 22, 2013 19:10 hrs

NEW DELHI, Feb 22 (Reuters) - India's Supreme Court on Friday allowed two Italian marines charged with the murder of two fishermen off the coast of India to return home to vote in this month's general election.

The two sailors, members of a military security team protecting a cargo ship from pirate attacks, are accused of shooting the fishermen they say they mistook for pirates off the southern state of Kerala in February last year, sparking a diplomatic row between New Delhi and Rome.

"The judges were sympathetic to the marines' request to exercise their democratic right of casting their votes," Diljeet Titus, one of the lawyers representing the Italian marines, told Reuters.

Last month, the Supreme Court said in a long-awaited ruling that India had jurisdiction to try marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, setting the stage for a criminal trial that could further sour ties between India and Italy.

Italy had challenged India's right to try the two, arguing that the shooting had taken place in international waters.

The Italians spent Christmas in Italy last year, after a Kerala court allowed them to join their families for the holiday, on condition that they returned to India by Jan. 10, which they did.

The marines are currently held at the Italian embassy in New Delhi. They report to a police station once a week. (Reporting by Annie Banerji; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Nick Macfie)

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