NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court on Monday ordered the government to decide within a week whether it will invoke a severe anti-piracy law against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen.
The marines were part of a military security team on a cargo ship in 2012 when they fired at the fishermen, saying they mistook them for pirates.
India's Home Ministry has entrusted the probe to an anti-terror agency. Italy has said the case should be investigated by police and raised objections to the agency's plan to invoke maritime laws, which carry a maximum penalty of death.
The case has sparked a bitter row between India and Italy. Italian officials deplored the delay and said no charges have been filed against the marines although two years have passed.
Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura told reporters in New Delhi on Monday that if the Indian government went ahead and applied the anti-maritime law, "it would be an act of equating Italy and Italian marines to a terrorist state."
He warned that the case would set "a very dangerous precedent for international relations."
The marines, Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are currently on bail pending trial and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in Delhi.
Italy is insisting that the men be sent back to Italy while awaiting the start of the trial.
India's Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati blamed the delay on witnesses who were on board the cargo ship when the firing took place but had not returned to India to give evidence despite promising that they would do so when required by the court.