In the wee hours of Saturday, the two Italian marines charged with shooting dead two Indian fishermen flew out of Kochi airport in a chartered flight from Italy. The question most often asked here now is: Will they return, as promised, by Jan 10, 2013?
The two Italians were charged with killing fishermen Ajesh Binki and Gelastine Feb 15, allegedly taking them for pirates.
The marines were out on bail, staying in a Kochi hotel.
On Thursday, the Kerala High Court ruled that subject to some conditions, the two marines could be allowed to return home for Christmas.
The families of the slain fishermen doubt the Italians will now return to stand trial in India. The Left opposition in the state too has expressed doubt the two will return.
The Italian consul general, however, has asserted that the men will return. An assurance to this effect was sought by the court from the Italian government before allowing the men the trip home for Christmas.
Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told reporters that his government had opposed relaxation in the bail conditions of the two accused; he told reporters Saturday that it was now up to the central government to see that the two return.
"There need be no doubt on the state government's stance. When the request for a Christmas holiday for the two first came, we strongly opposed it. Now it's the responsibility of the central government to see that the two return. The Italian government has offered such an assurance,” the chief minister said.
Meanwhile, reports from Italy indicate that the two could expect the welcome of heroes, later Saturday.
To circumvent the law, the two could be fielded as candidates in upcoming general elections in Italy.
Italian officials in Delhi expect that the case in the Supreme Court of India, in which the Italian government has demanded trial under international law, could be ruled in their favour.
Meanwhile, the CPI (M) is all set to close in on an opportunity to go hammer and tongs at the state government, in case the two accused fail to return. There are already murmurings that none other than Congress president Sonia Gandhi had intervened, in favour of the two marines from the country of her origin.
Trivandrum Latin Church Archbishop M.Susaipakiam told reporters here Saturday that allowing the two Italian marines to return was a good gesture.
"This gesture is certain to increase warmth in the relations between the two countries," the archbishop said.