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Italian sailors freed on bail in Indian murder case June 03,2012   |  Source: Reuters

Italian sailors charged with murdering two Indian fishermen were released on bail on Saturday to await trial, one step closer to the climax of a major diplomatic row between Rome and New Delhi.

An Italian Foreign Ministry spokesman said the two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, had moved to a hotel in the port city of Kochi in Kerala, where they are obliged to stay under conditions of their bail.

An Indian court on May 30 set bail at 10 million rupees each and said Latorre and Girone would not be allowed to leave Kochi for the duration of the trial, set to begin on June 18.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti expressed "great satisfaction" for the release of the two sailors, but added that his real hope was to get them home.

"The final conclusion that we are seeking," Monti said in a statement "is the return in Italy of our marines".

The sailors were part of a military security team protecting the cargo ship Enrica Lexie from pirate attacks when they opened fire on the fishermen's boat off the coast of Kerala on February 15. Italian officials say the men mistook the fishermen for pirates.

The incident has soured relations between Italy and India, with Rome insisting that India does not have jurisdiction to try the sailors because the shooting


© Thomson Reuters

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