India will not block sick Italian marine's treatment

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Indian government will not prevent an ailing Italian marine facing murder charges from returning home for medical treatment, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Monday.

Massimiliano Lattore, 47, is one of two Italian marines being held over the 2012 shooting of two fishermen mistakenly believed to be pirates, in a case that has soured relations between New Delhi and Rome. He suffered a stroke in August.

India's Supreme Court has instructed the government to respond to his plea for bail so that he can seek treatment.

"We will not oppose the bail plea of the Italian marine. We will not do it on humanitarian grounds," Swaraj told reporters."If the marine wants to go home and if the court allows, he can."

Under international pressure, India had dropped a plan to prosecute the marines under a tough new anti-piracy law. Italy says the incident occurred in international waters and that jurisdiction over the marines should lie with Rome.

In April 2012, Rome paid US$190,000 (Sing$240,000) to each of the victims' families as compensation. In return, the families dropped their cases against the marines, but the state's case continues.

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