Italy recalls ambassador to India over court's 'unacceptable' delay
Italian government's envoy Staffan de Mistura speaks to journalists after a court hearing at the Supreme Court, in New Delhi, India, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)
Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press
Published Tuesday, February 18, 2014 5:33AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 18, 2014 9:57AM EST
ROME -- Italy recalled its ambassador to India on Tuesday after the South Asian country's supreme court delayed a decision on trying two Italian marines held without charge since 2012.
The foreign ministry also summoned India's ambassador to Italy after the latest delay in a case that has seriously strained ties between the two countries and prompted Italy to seek U.N. and European Union intervention.
"The behaviour of India's judicial authorities, two years after the incident, is unacceptable and shows that India is intent on procrastinating beyond every limit," Rome's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were providing security aboard a cargo ship in February 2012 when they opened fire on a fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. The marines are on bail pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.
India's supreme court was to hear arguments on Tuesday on whether to try the marines under India's severe anti-piracy statute, which could result in a 10-year sentence. But the court delayed the hearing until Monday.
India has ruled out the death penalty.
Italy has objected for two years over India's handling of the case, insisting at the outset that the firing occurred in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and thus Rome, not India, should have jurisdiction. It has denounced India's planned use of the anti-piracy statute, saying it was "absolutely out of proportion" crime and implied that Italy was a terrorist country.
The Italians have sought international support for their cause. The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said the EU was "deeply worried" about the use of the anti-piracy statute and was following the case closely.