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Breach of faith, says Harish Salve, quits as Italian marines' lawyer

Breach of faith, says Harish Salve, quits as Italian marines' lawyer
New Delhi Harish Salve, one of India's best-known lawyers, will no longer represent the Italian marines who were allowed to travel home by the Supreme Court but will not return to face trial for shooting two Kerala fishermen at sea.

Mr Salve described the Italian government's decision to keep the marines at home as "a breach of faith."

"It is a complete betrayal by the Italian government. I heard the PM speaking in Parliament and also the sense of house on this issue. The government  should take strong action," the senior advocate said.

Mr Salve said that when Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone asked for permission to go to Italy for four weeks to vote in the national election, the Italian government guaranteed the Supreme Court that they would come back. He said he is shocked that the Italian government has reneged on its commitment to the Supreme Court. (Read his full statement)

India is considering whether to expel the Italian ambassador, Daniele Mancini, in retaliation since he had given the undertaking that the sailors would be back in Delhi by March 22.

On Monday, the Italian Foreign Ministry informed India that the marines will remain in their country because India does not have jurisdiction over the case and had ignored a letter from Rome seeking a diplomatic dialogue and solution to the dispute.  Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the decision as "unacceptable" and last evening, the Italian envoy was summoned by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and told that India expects Italy to honour its commitment.

The marines, who were guarding an Italian tanker, say the two fishermen they shot in February last year were mistaken for pirates off the Kochi coast.  

Italy says the shooting took place in international waters; India denies that.  In January, the Supreme Court moved the case out of Kerala's jurisdiction to Delhi. The marines were staying at the Italian embassy and reported once a week to a local police station.  

In December, they were allowed by the Supreme Court to spend Christmas at home and returned on schedule.


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