Italy has closed the case against two marines charged and arrested in India for the murder of two Indian citizens in February 2012.
A court in Rome has dismissed the case against two marines because the proceedings had already been closed in the Indian Supreme court.
In a statement, Italian Defence Minister Lorenzo Guerini welcomed the “positive outcome” for Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre. “This brings to an end a years-long event during which the defence ministry has never left the two marines and their families on their own,” Guerini said.
Supreme Court of India had closed the case against the two marines after the Indian government had accepted a compensation offer of ₹ 10 crores for the victims’ families.
However, the Supreme Court had said that the Italian government must start criminal proceedings against the two marines under its jurisdiction immediately and that the Indian authorities would provide evidence in the case.
Italian officials told media that prosecutors reviewed the case in December and concluded insufficient evidence to carry out a trial.
Girone and Latorre had fired on a fishermen’s boat off the southern Indian coast in February 2012 while protecting an Italian oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission, killing two fishermen.
India arrested the marines and charged them with murder. With the trial pending, the two members of Italy’s elite Naval unit were held in custody in India for some years before being allowed to return to Italy – Latorre went back in 2014 and Girone in 2016.
In 2015, Italy took the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in Hague. In July last year, the PCA ordered that the marines were immune to prosecution in India but should face trial in Italy.
In 2016, Christian Michel, a British arms agent wanted by Indian investigators in the 2013 AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, had claimed the Indian government “offered to free the two Italian marines facing a murder trial in India in exchange for damning information against Sonia Gandhi in the scam.”
Michel made the allegations in a letter to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Seas in Hamburg and the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) at The Hague, where Italy and India were battling legally over the murder charges against the marines, according to The Telegraph. However, the paper could not independently verify Michel’s allegations.
In April 2014 Narendra Modi, who was the prime ministerial candidate of BJP in the general elections, had tweeted, “Italian marines mercilessly killed our fishermen. If Madam is so ‘patriotic’ can she tell us in which jail are the marines lodged in?”