Indian politicians blast govt for releasing Italian marines

NEW DELHI (AP) - Angry politicians attacked the Indian government Tuesday for allowing two Italian marines accused of killing a pair of Indian fishermen last year to leave the country.

The government had allowed the marines to return to Italy in February to vote in national elections and to celebrate Easter with their families. Italy announced Monday it would not send the marines back to India to face trial as had been expected.

Opposition lawmakers held up proceedings in both houses of India's Parliament demanding the government explain what it plans to do to bring the marines back.

India said it is considering what steps to take next in the international dispute.

Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid said the government would respond appropriately to a letter from the Italian government declaring that the marines would not be returning to India.

"We are studying the implications of the position taken by Italy. We will take an informed decision after examining the communication from Italy," Khurshid said.

The marines were part of a military security team aboard a cargo ship when they opened fire on a fishing boat last February that they said they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. The shooting took place off the coast of India's southern state of Kerala.

The marines, Massimilian Latorre and Salvatore Girone, had been out on bail and awaiting trial.

The incident sparked a diplomatic dispute between the countries. Italy maintains the shooting occurred in international waters and that Rome should have jurisdiction. India claims the ship was in Indian territorial waters.

The Indian Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that the men should be tried by a special court to be set up by the central government in consultation with the chief justice. The decision removed the case from the jurisdiction of the southern state of Kerala, near where the shooting took place.

The Indian government had earlier allowed the two marines to go home over the Christmas holidays, after which they returned to India.