India fashions great escape for 'killer' Italian marines, says no to death sentence
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With Italy reversing its decision of not sending back its two marines, the government today said it had assured that country that the accused in fishermen killing case will not face death penalty and will not be arrested if they returned by the deadline of today set by the Supreme Court.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was bitter after Italy reneged on its commitments earlier, welcomed the decision to send back the marines, saying the "integrity and dignity of Indian judicial process has been upheld".
Hours after the announcement was made in Rome that the marines will return to face trial, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told Parliament that Italy had sought "clarifications" on death penalty and other issues which were a matter of "concern" to that country.
The government was informed through "a diplomatic approach" that Italy would be willing to send the two marines back to India as per its commitment to face trial in the case of killing two fishermen in February last year, he said in identical statements in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
"It (Italy) sought from India clarifications regarding the conditions applicable to the marines on their return and the provisions regarding the death penalty that could be applicable in this case which was an Italian concern.
"Notwithstanding the pending proceedings, the government has informed the Italian government that the two marines will not be liable for arrest if they return within the time frame laid down by the Supreme Court of India," he said.
India also allayed Italy's fears by saying that "according to well-settled Indian jurisprudence, this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases. Therefore, there need not be any apprehension in this regard," Khurshid said.
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