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India

Italy to return marines accused of murder to India

Two Italian marines accused of murder in India will return to the country to face trial, Italy's government has announced. Italy had previously said they would not return as promised, sparking a diplomatic furore.

The soldiers, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are accused of shooting dead two Indian fishermen in February 2012 after mistaking them for pirates, while deployed on an Italian oil tanker.

The pair, pictured above, were detained in India to face trial, but were allowed to go home for four weeks to vote in last month's parliamentary elections in Italy. They were supposed to return by Friday.

But earlier this month, the Italian foreign ministry announced Latorre and Girone would not return as promised, because the decision to try them in India violated their rights. Italy believes the shooting happened in international waters.

Italy's refusal to hand the men over caused fury in India, with the Indian Supreme Court ruling that Italy's ambassador to New Delhi, Daniele Mancici, could not leave the country. Italy had insisted that any restrictions on Mancini's movements violated diplomatic relations conventions, and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also weighed in, warning that diplomatic immunity "should be respected at all times."

However, on Thursday, Italy said it had received written, "ample assurances" from India "on the treatment that the marines will receive and the defense of their fundamental rights."

"The government decided, also in the interests of the marines, to maintain the commitment taken when they were granted leave to take part in the elections to return to India by March 22," said a statement from the office of prime minister Mario Monti, adding that the marines agreed to the decision.

According to the statement, Italian president Giorgio Napolitano telephoned Latorre to tell he "appreciated the sense of responsibility demonstrated in their acceptance of the government's decision."

The case also caused uproar in the local assembly of southwestern Kerala, the home state of the dead fishermen.

jr/av (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)