Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone accused of murdering two Indian fishermen, in a case that has sparked a diplomatic row between India and Italy, are to be sent back to Delhi for trial.
The Indian government had allowed them to return to Italy to vote in last month’s election.
But when they failed to return, India’s Supreme Court ruled Italy’s ambassador was barred from leaving the country.
The Italian government said it had received assurances about the men’s treatment and their human rights.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of shooting the fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012. The marines had been guarding an Italian oil tanker and said they mistook the fishermen for pirates.
The marines, who had been out on bail awaiting trial, were allowed to fly back to Italy for the February 2013 general election on condition that they returned to stand trial by March 22.
Italian ambassador Daniele Mancini gave his personal assurance that they would return within four weeks.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone are accused of shooting the fishermen off the Kerala coast in February 2012
However, then Rome decided that they would not fly back to Delhi, arguing that India was violating international law by putting them on trial, as the shooting had taken place in international waters.
Rome proposed putting them on trial in Italy.
The day before the men’s licence was due to expire, the office of Italian PM Mario Monti issued a statement saying that the marines had agreed to return.
“The marines agreed to this decision,” the statement said, adding that it was also in the men’s interest.
President Giorgio Napolitano said he appreciated their “sense of responsibility” and said Italy would remain by their side.
The Italian foreign ministry’s decision 10 days ago not to return the two men had prompted a bitter diplomatic row, with Indian PM Manmohan Singh warning of “consequences” if it was not reversed.
Then the Delhi Supreme Court ordered Rome’s envoy not to leave the country and airports across India were put on alert to stop him flying out.
Italy said restricting its ambassador’s movements violated diplomatic conventions.
Daniele Mancini, Italy’s ambassador to India, has been ordered not to leave the country after Rome’s refusal to return two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala last year.
The Indian court had allowed the marines to go home to vote in last month’s elections.
Ambassador Daniele Mancini had personally assured the court the marines would return by March 22.
On Wednesday, Indian PM Manmohan Singh warned that “there will be consequences” unless Italy returned the marines.
In unusually strong language, Manmohan Singh said that Italy’s refusal to send back the marines was “unacceptable”.
Rome’s decision has come as a major embarrassment for the Indian government and opposition parties have been demanding their immediate return.
On Thursday morning, the court headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir issued a notice to the Italian ambassador, restraining him from leaving without its permission.
Daniele Mancini has been asked to respond to the notice by March 18.
Daniele Mancini, Italy’s ambassador to India, has been ordered not to leave the country after Rome’s refusal to return two marines charged with the murder of two fishermen in Kerala last year
India’s Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the judges that Rome’s failure to return the two marines “is a breach of undertaking given to the highest court of the land and the government is extremely concerned about it”.
In February, the Supreme Court allowed Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone to go home to vote in the Italian elections. They were ordered to return within four weeks.
But on Monday, Italy informed India that the marines would not be coming back, prompting a diplomatic row.
The marines are accused of shooting the fishermen in February 2012. They said they mistook them for pirates.
Italy argues that because the case is now the subject of international maritime law, it has been decided that the pair will not return to India “on the expiration of the permission granted to them”.
Rome says that it wants its nationals to be tried in Italy. Because the incident took place in international waters, Italy believes India has no jurisdiction in the case.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is expected to make a public statement later on the diplomatic row that has engulfed him since being granted asylum by Ecuador.
WikiLeaks says Julian Assange will speak outside the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he has taken refuge.
Julian Assange faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims, which he denies.
Ecuador’s president has suggested Julian Assange could co-operate with Sweden if assurances are given that there would be no extradition to a third country.
Australian Julian Assange, 41 – whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables embarrassing countries including the US – first walked into the embassy in Knightsbridge, asking for protection, two months ago.
Julian Assange is expected to make a public statement later on the diplomatic row that has engulfed him since being granted asylum by Ecuador
Julian Assange entered the embassy after the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.
It is established international protocol that local police and security forces are not permitted to enter an embassy, unless they have the express permission of the ambassador.
On Thursday a post appeared on the WikiLeaks Twitter feed which said: “ANNOUNCEMENT: Julian Assange will give a live statement in front of the Ecuadorian embassy, Sunday 2:00 pm.”
However, it is not clear precisely how this statement will be made and Julian Assange has been warned by the British authorities that he will be arrested when he leaves the embassy.
The Sunday Times quotes sources close to Julian Assange who say he would be prepared to leave the embassy if guarantees are given by Sweden that he will not be extradited to the US.
His supporters claim he could face persecution and even the death penalty.
On Friday, Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa used his weekly national address to say that the South American country had never said Julian Assange should not “answer to the Swedish justice system”.
“What we have always asked for is a guarantee that there won’t be a second extradition to a third country as that would put at risk Mr. Assange’s life and freedom.”
Rafael Correa said a letter from the British government that drew attention to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 was “intolerable” and an “explicit threat”.
The act could allow the UK to potentially lift the embassy’s diplomatic status to allow police to enter the building to arrest Julian Assange for breaching his bail terms.
Meanwhile, the Alba group of leftist Latin American nations – founded by Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez – has warned the UK government “it will face grave consequences around the world if it directly breaches the territorial integrity” of the embassy.
The UK Foreign Office has said the letter was sent to clarify “all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of”.
It has also said it would follow its obligations, under the Extradition Act, to arrest Julian Assange if he leaves the embassy.
Sweden, meanwhile, has said it is “unacceptable that Ecuador would want to halt the Swedish judicial process”.
It wants to question Julian Assange over allegations that he sexually assaulted two female ex-WikiLeaks volunteers while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture in 2010.