Killing of two Indian fishermen in 2012 has soured relations between India and Italy. Marines had been on an anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean.
A maritime tribunal rejected Italy's request Monday that India drop charges against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in international waters.
But the ruling by the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea also ordered India to cease criminal proceedings against the marines until the tribunal makes a final ruling.
Rome objects to holding a trial in India, arguing that the case should be taken to arbitration under the international maritime law as the shooting occurred in international waters.
The Indian government wants Indian courts to try the case and had arrested the two marines following the shooting. One of the men was allowed to travel to Italy for heart surgery while the other remains inside the Italian embassy, out of reach of Indian authorities.
In Monday's ruling, the court said: "Italy and India shall both suspend all court proceedings and shall refrain from initiating new ones that might aggravate or extend the dispute submitted."
That in effect is a decision in favor of Italy, which had asked that India halt prosecution until the court's final ruling.
But as the detention of the marines and the long delay in the case coming to trial has soured relations between Rome and New Delhi, opposition politicians have castigated Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, for failing to free the marines.
"It is deeply disappointing. The tribunal, in effect, decided to decide nothing," said Maurizio Gasparri, a senator with the right-wing Forza Italia party.
Fishermen mistaken for pirates
The Italian marines had been part of a six-member security detail guarding the oil tanker Enrica Lexie photographed here in 2012.
The marines, part of a military anti-pirate mission protecting the Italian oil tanker Enrica Lexie in 2012, say they mistook Indian fishermen for pirates and had fired warning shots.
In April 2012, Rome paid $190,000 to each of the slain fisherman's families as compensation.
Fallout from the arrest of the marines has damaged wider relations between Italy and India, and contributed to the collapse of a European Union-India summit planned during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Germany and France earlier this year.
It remains unclear when the tribunal will make its final ruling.
jar/jil (AFP, Reuters)