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Court Cases

Italian foreign minister resigns over India marines dispute

Italy's foreign minister has resigned after he was overruled on the return of two marines from the country to India, where they are facing a murder trial. Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata complained he had been ignored.

Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi announced his resignation on Tuesday, claiming his concerns about the return of the two Italian marines had been disregarded in a way he found unacceptable.

"I resign in contention with the decision to send the marines back to India. The misgivings I expressed had no effect on the decision taken," Terzi told parliament. "My voice remained unheard."

"I am resigning because, for 40 years, I have maintained, and still maintain, that the reputation of the country, the armed forces and Italian diplomacy, should be safeguarded." he said. "I am also standing down in solidarity with our two marines and their families."

The case involves marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre, who were deployed on an Italian oil tanker off the coast of the Indian state of Kerala in February 2012. The soldiers allegedly shot dead two fishermen, mistaking them for pirates.

Rome changes its mind, twice

India's Supreme Court agreed last month that the marines should be allowed to return home for a four-week period so that they could vote in general elections.

Italian ambassador to India Daniele Mancini had vouched that they would return to face trial, but a diplomatic dispute ensued on March 11, when Italy said they would not. Rome claimed India had no jurisdiction to try the marines, given that the incident occurred in international waters.

Both soldiers returned to India last week after a shock decision by the Italian government to abandon its stance. While the decision was greeted as a victory by Indian politicians, it prompted outrage in the Italian press, which had called for Terzi's resignation.

India has given assurances that the men will not be arrested upon their return to the Supreme Court in the capital, New Delhi. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has also stressed there is no chance of a death sentence being passed in the case.

rc/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)