India

India court lets Italian marines go home for Christmas

Salvatore Girone (centre) and Latorre Massimiliano (left), marines aboard the Enrica Lexie, at the guest house of the Central Indian Security Force, in the southern Indian city of Kochi - 20 February 2012
Image caption The two marines are being held in the southern Indian state of Kerala

An Indian court has allowed two Italian marines charged with the murder of two Indian fishermen to go home for Christmas.

The court allowed them to leave for two weeks and asked for additional bail of 60m rupees ($1.1m; £676,000).

The two men are accused of shooting the fishermen dead in February after allegedly mistaking them for pirates.

At the time the marines were guarding an Italian oil tanker off India's south-western coast.

The jailing of the marines has resulted in a diplomatic row between India and Italy.

The men have been out on bail and awaiting their trial in the city of Kochi.

In April, Italy agreed to pay 10m rupees ($189,000; £117,013) in compensation to each of the families of the two Indian fishermen.

In return, the families accepted the compensation and agreed to withdraw civil court cases against the marines.

But the authorities in Kerala refused to drop the charges against the marines.

'Warning shots'

Italy said that the Indian fishing boat had behaved aggressively and ignored warning shots from their ship, the oil tanker MV Enrica Lexie.

But India said the fishermen, Selestian Valentine and Ajesh Pinky, had been unarmed.

Italy wants the men to be tried in Italy and says the incident took place in international waters.

India initially said the event had occurred in its territorial waters and that the marines should therefore be tried under local laws.

It later changed its position, saying that the incident had taken place in international waters and that the Kerala police had had no jurisdiction to detain the ship.

However, Kerala state officials have maintained that the marines will be tried under Indian law.

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