NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court ruled Friday that two Italian marines accused of killing a pair of fishermen off the coast of India last year will be tried in a special court to be set up by the Indian government.
Italy had argued that the shootings should be dealt with by an Italian court and said the killings took place in international waters, which India disputes.
The trial is expected to further strain ties between Italy and India that have been frayed by the yearlong fight over the marines' fate. Top Italian officials have visited the marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, at a guesthouse in the southern state of Kerala to lend their support and the Indian government allowed them to go home for two weeks to celebrate Christmas with their families.
The marines were part of a military security team aboard a cargo ship when they opened fire on a fishing boat last February they said they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen.
The court ruled Friday that the trial should take place in India in a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice, according to the Press Trust of India. The order removed the case from the jurisdiction of the southern state of Kerala, near where the shooting took place.
The Italian government said in a statement it found the decision encouraging because it recognized that the state court in Kerala did not have jurisdiction. It said in a statement that the ruling "encourages further efforts" by the Italian government to bring the two marines home.
"The Supreme Court confirmed that Kerala has no jurisdiction in this case, which is basically what we maintained from the very first day," Italian Consul-General Giampaolo Cutillo told The Associated Press.
Piracy has emerged as a major threat to merchant ships in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, with Somalia-based pirates hijacking ships and crew for ransom.
Several countries, including India, allow ship owners to deploy armed security guards on ships.