Two Italian marines have been jailed in southern India as the government investigates the shooting deaths of two fishermen last month. The Italians claim that they thought the fishermen were pirates.
An Indian court on Monday ordered two Italian soldiers to be held in jail while an investigation into the deaths of two fishermen is concluded. The Italians, who had been providing security for a cargo ship, had shot and killed two Indian fishermen on February 15 after mistakenly identifying them as a threat.
The two marines had been staying in a guest house in the town of Kochi since February 19, before Chief Judicial Magistrate A.K. Gopakumar ordered their relocation to the Central Prison in the state of Kerala's capital of Thiruvananthapuram.
The soldiers' request for an air-conditioned cell was denied.
"Their requests were rejected by the court but they have been provided with a special room. That is the maximum luxury one can get in an Indian prison," police officer Alexander Jacob told the news agency AFP.
Piracy has become a major issue in the Indian Ocean as pirates in the area have taken huge ransoms in recent years by capturing merchant shipping, often operating in small boats used for fishing.
The Italian foreign office had been pushing for a trial in Italy, arguing that the incident occurred in international waters, but Indian officials are maintaining that the trial will go forward in India, since the fishermen were killed on an Indian boat.
Italy's foreign minister Guilio Terzi had travelled to New Delhi last week to seek an Italian trial but Kerala's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Monday said the soldiers would be shown no leniency.
Italy issued an apology for the shooting, but said the fishing boat had been determined to be "clearly hostile, and typical of the type of vessel used by pirates," and that it had failed to respond to warning signals.
The two men are expected to appear in court again in two weeks.
sjt/msh (AFP, AP)