New Delhi: Amid anger back home, Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy on Wednesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to press that the Centre should act to bring back for trial the two Italian marines who are accused of killing two fishermen.

Terming Italy's decision not to send back its marines as a "diplomatic tragedy", he said they should not escape under the garb of diplomatic status and it is the responsibility of the Centre to ensure their return to stand trial here.

Chandy, whose Congress-led UDF government came under attack from Opposition over handling of the issue, was critical of Italy, saying it used diplomacy as a "weapon to cheat" another nation's Apex Court and "shield" the killers.

"There will be no compromise on this issue. The marines should be tried under Indian law. Diplomatic status should not be used as a weapon to cheat another nation's apex judiciary. It should not be used as a means to shield the killers.

"No nation can agree with it. World will stand by India on this issue. That is why I am telling that Italy's stand on this issue is a diplomatic tragedy," he said. The chief minister, who also discussed the issue with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, said it is the time for the Centre to act. He said it is not only Kerala's issue but a question of the country's "prestige and sovereignty".

Asked if it was the Centre's responsibility to bring them back to India, Chandy shot back, "What is the doubt in it?" Reacting to a question whether the Supreme Court has "erred" in allowing them to go to Italy to cast their votes, he said, "I am not going to find any fault. What next is the specific agenda." He also expressed hope that "Italy will come around and obey Indian laws."

Massimiliano Lattore and Salvatore Girone have been charged with homicide for killing two fishermen off the Kerala coast in February last year. The two were allowed by the Apex Court on February 22 to travel to Italy for four weeks under the control and custody of the Ambassador of Italy in India, to cast their ballot in the elections scheduled for February 24 and 25.

The court had said that the marines are only allowed to travel to Italy and remain there and will have to return to India.


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