Italian marines ask Supreme Court for bail relaxation

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Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone

The two Italian marines-Massimilano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala nearly three years ago, have moved the supreme court for relaxation of their bail conditions.

Both the accused were granted bail by the Kerala high court in May, 2012, but the supreme court ordered them to remain in India.

On September 12, this year, Latorre was allowed to go to Italy for treatment after a brain stroke. His bail period expires on January 13, 2015. By filing an application, he has sought an extension of his stay in Italy for four more months to undergo a heart surgery.
Latorre pleaded to the court to consider his application on "humanitarian" grounds, saying that he has to undergo heart surgery and continues to require rehabilitation, treatment and therapy in his native country and also that he is not immediately required by any Indian court as the trial has been stayed for the tijme being by the supreme court.

In a separate application, the accused Girone, presently in India, has cited the psychological impact of his absence on his children—a son and daughter- and has appealed to the top court to relax his bail condition and let him travel to Italy.

Girone's application said: "Medical experts have independently and separately concluded that the applicant's children suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome due to applicant's (Girone) detention in India, and believe that they may never see their father again and that their father may be given the death penalty as a result of criminal prosecution."

"According to medical evidence, it is likely that prolonged stress of this kind, which is traumatic to children, if left untreated, would have long-term devastating effects on the psychological condition of the children," the application reads.

Girone's application goes on to say that although the government of Italy has organised his family's visit to India, there can be no substitute for being abhle to see him daily for three months, for his children.

"The treatment of the children would be helped if they were allowed to see their father in their home environment. It is not possible for the children to visit India regularly to see their father since this will be very disruptive to their education in Italy," reads the application.

The supreme court is set to hear their pleas on December 16.

Latorre and Girone, part of a military security team protecting a privately-owned cargo ship, claim that they mistook the fishermen for pirates and fired warning shots into the water during the incident in February 2012, off the coast of Kerala.

The Indian government had handed over the investigation to the National Investigating Agency (NIA) which functions as the nation's counter-terrorism law enforcement agency.

The NIA had registered a first information report (FIR) on 4 April, 2012 charging the two marines with "murder by firing" under Section 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder) and 427 (mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and also Section 3 of the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against Safety of Maritime Navigation and Fixed Platforms on Continental Shelf Act 2002 (SUA).

India invoked SUA, a multilateral treaty, to back claims that it had the jurisdiction to try the marines here.

Italy, however, had had strongly opposed India invoking the law, arguing that it would amount to treating the men as "terrorists" and it recalled its ambassador to New Delhi in protest against the delay in the case.

After a flip-flop, the Centre had informed the apex court that the accused would not be tried under the stringent anti-piracy law that would have seen them being sentenced to death.

Meanwhile, the top court also stayed trial before the special court.

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