MUMBAI, India (AP) — India's Supreme Court will allow two Italian marines awaiting trial in the deaths of a pair of fishermen off India's coast last year to go home to vote in this weekend's national elections, a news report said Friday.
The court granted the request for the men to vote in Italy because the country does not allow voting by mail, the Press Trust of India news agency said. Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone will be released into the custody of the Italian ambassador and will return after this weekend's voting, the report said.
The marines were part of an anti-piracy military security team aboard a cargo ship last February when they opened fire on a fishing boat that they said they mistook for a pirate craft. Two Indian fishermen died when the boat was struck.
The Italians were arrested in India and are awaiting trial in a special court. The yearlong fight over the marines' fate has strained ties between India and Italy, with Rome saying that they should be tried in an Italian court and that the shooting happened in international waters, which India disputes.
Italian officials have visited Latorre and Girone in the southern state of Kerala to lend their support, and the Indian government allowed them to go home for two weeks to celebrate Christmas with their families.
Piracy has emerged as a major threat to merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, with Somalia-based pirates hijacking ships and crew members for ransom. Several countries, including India, allow ship owners to deploy armed security guards on ships.