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Court will decide on Italian marines issue: Krishna

Kochi: India today made it clear that the case of two Italian Marines who shot dead two fishermen will be decided only by the court, notwithstanding Italy`s warning that New Delhi was setting a "dangerous" precedent by holding their trial in the country. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna also said that the Centre will not go beyond Kerala government`s stand on detention of the two Italians.

"We had detailed discussions focussing on two issues. Two innocent fishermen died for no fault of theirs…First the marines were in police custody, then in judicial custody. Court will ultimately decide how this impasse can be resolved," the minister said after meeting Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and senior officials. Assuring that Centre was not inclined to go beyond Kerala`s stand, he said, "The State government should be satisfied (on the issue)."

Union minister E Ahamed, IGP K Padmakumar and Joint secretary, MEA Europe and West, Ruchi Ganshyam and state DGP Jacob Punnonose took part in the meeting, which discussed the detention of Italian ship `Enrica Lexie` and the two marines and the Somalian pirates menace. Ruling out any adverse impact of the case on India-Italy relationship, Krishna said "This issue does not in any manner affect cordial relations we have with Italy and we will continue to strengthen it."

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti had spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last month on the issue after which an Italian statement said that he had warned against India setting a "dangerous precedent" with the prosecution of two Italian Marines in Kerala. "Any attitude from the Indian side that is not fully in line with international laws risks creating a dangerous precedent for international peacekeeping and anti-piracy mission," the statement said. The killing of two fishermen from Kerala off Kollam coast on February 15 had sparked a diplomatic row between India and Italy, which wanted the marines to be tried in their country.

Chandy said his government explained steps taken by Kerala on the detention of the Italian ship and the marines. Kerala`s stand was the marines should be tried under Indian law, to which Centre has agreed to give full support, he said. He said Italian authorities have to give proper guarantee before the ship was released. "They have just given an offer on paper. They have to give proper guarantee, accept the conditions of the court," Chandy said. On the Somalian pirates issue, Krishna said the ministries of External affairs, Defence and Home are working jointly to deal with the scourge. "We have taken some steps to minimise the menace. But still lots needs to be done," he said.

Meanwhile, Mercy George, wife of George Joseph, who has been held hostage by Somalian pirates since September 28, 2010, today met Krishna and urged him to get her husband released. "Please do something to help my husband and six others who are being held hostage", Mercy told the minister. George is the first engineer of M V Asphalt Venture, which was captured by Somalians when the ship was on its way to Kenya. The pirates released 16 ship officials after ransom was paid, but held back seven Indians, including two Keralites.

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