Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (R ) meets marines Salvatore Girone (centre L) and Massimiliano Latorre ( centre R )
India’s Supreme Court has today extended the home leave of an Italian marine accused of killing two fishermen, the latest episode in a legal battle that sparked a bitter diplomatic row.
Massimiliano Latorre and his fellow marine Salvatore Girone are accused of shooting the fishermen while protecting an Italian oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission off India’s southern Kerala coast in 2012.
The incident, which is now subject to international arbitration, has badly strained relations between Rome and New Delhi.
Both marines were barred from leaving India pending a trial, but Latorre was allowed to travel back to Italy in 2014 for medical treatment after he suffered a stroke.
Today India’s highest court extended Latorre’s permission to stay in Italy by five months, until September 30.
Girone is living at Italy’s embassy in New Delhi and remains barred from leaving India pending a resolution of the dispute.
Italy initiated arbitration proceedings last year and in August the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) ordered India to suspend court proceedings against the pair.
ITLOS rejected Rome’s request for both marines to be freed immediately pending a final ruling.
The detention of the marines, the murder charges and the long wait for the case to be resolved are sore subjects in Italy, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi regularly flayed by opposition leaders for failing to get both men home.
Italy insists the oil tanker, the MV Enrica Lexie, was in international waters at the time of the incident.
India argues that the case is not a maritime dispute but “a double murder at sea”, in which one fisherman was shot in the head and the other in the stomach.