MUMBAI, India — An Indian court ruled Thursday that two Italian Marines detained for the deaths of two fishermen can go home for Christmas, pending formal government approval, said Italian Consul General Giampaolo Cutillo.
"As soon as the bureaucratic work is done they can go," Cutillo said. "Let's see if by the weekend it will be possible."
The court said the pair can go to Italy for 15 days, provided they return no later than Jan. 10. Italy had to furnish an additional 60 million rupees ($1.1 million) on top of the existing 40 million rupees ($730,000) in bail for the Marines, as well as guarantees from Italy's foreign minister, the country's ambassador to India and Cutillo.
India's Ministry of Foreign Affairs must give immigration authorities a formal letter of no objection before the Marines can leave the country, but the ministry has already told Kerala's High Court it has no objection to the trip, Cutillo said.
Foreign affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the government is waiting to receive Thursday's judgment from the court before making a decision.
Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were aboard a cargo ship in February when they opened fire on a fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. They are out on bail but cannot leave the country without court permission.
The incident has been emotionally charged for both India and Italy. Italy is fighting in India's Supreme Court for jurisdiction to try the Marines at home, arguing the firing took place in international waters, which Indian authorities dispute.
Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paolo visited the Marines in the southern city of Kochi over the weekend and appealed to India to let them celebrate the holiday with their families.
News that the two would likely be home for Christmas was cheered in Italy.
"We will be able to embrace our Marines here this Christmas, trusting that upon their return to India, in accordance with the agreements, India's Supreme Court will finally issue its decision and the Marines will come back home to be tried under Italian justice," Italian President Giorgio Napolitano told reporters.
"I'm on cloud nine," Latorre's sister Franca told Italy's La Repubblica newspaper. "We were in a deafening, almost religious silence while waiting for their decision on whether we would get to see them again at Christmas."