NEW DELHI (AP) — Italian defense minister traveled to southern India on Sunday to meet two Italian Marines detained for the deaths of two fishermen, stepping up pressure on India to let the men return home for Christmas.
Giampaolo Di Paolo told journalists that he hoped Indian authorities will understand the importance of Christmas and allow the Marines to return. "Nobody more than India understands the value of festivities. For us Christmas is our biggest festivity. We want them to go back, to be with their families and parents. We are confident that the Indian people will understand this," Di Paolo said. He was speaking in the southern port city of Kochi in Kerala state where the two are living in an old reformatory.
The two were aboard a cargo ship in February when they opened fire on a fishing boat that they mistook for a pirate craft, killing two Indian fishermen. They are out on bail but cannot leave the country without court permission.
The incident sparked a diplomatic dispute between the countries. Italy says the shooting occurred in international waters and Rome should have jurisdiction. India says the ships were in Indian territorial waters.
The marines have filed a petition in the Kerala High Court seeking permission to visit their families over Christmas. The court will take up their petition Tuesday.