Two Italian ship guards accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year returned to New Delhi on Friday evening, easing a standoff that threatened to strain diplomatic ties between the two countries.
"The Italian government requested and received written assurances from the Indian authorities regarding the treatment of the marines and the protection of their fundamental rights," Italian authorities said in a statement.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the government had assured Italian authorities that the guards would not be arrested following their return, and that “their case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty.”
The Indian Supreme Court last month allowed the guards to go home for four weeks after the Italian ambassador to India gave a written undertaking that they would return to India to face trial. But the Italian foreign ministry later refused to send the duo back, citing the U.N.Convention on the Law of the Sea.
In response to Italy’s refusal to return the guards, the Supreme Court in a restraining order March 18 barred Italian Ambassador Daniele Mancini from leaving India until further orders. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also stepped up pressure on Italy by threatening to review bilateral ties.
The next court hearing is set for April 2.
The armed guards were part of a six-member security detachment aboard the Enrica Lexie, an Italian-flag oil tanker, sailing from Singapore to Egypt. The guards said they mistook the fishing trawler for a pirate craft.