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Italy recalls ambassador to India after trial delay

Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in the southern Indian city of Kochi Janu
Italian sailors Salvatore Girone (R) and Massimiliano Latorre leave the police commissioner office in the southern Indian city of Kochi Janu

NEW DELHI/ROME (Reuters) - Italy recalled its ambassador to India on Tuesday after the Supreme Court in New Delhi delayed a decision on a trial for two Italian marines accused of shooting two fishermen in February 2012.

The Italian foreign ministry said it would recall its ambassador for consultations after the Supreme Court adjourned a hearing that had lasted only 10 minutes. The judge said India's government needed to produce more paperwork on whether the trial could be heard under anti-piracy legislation.

The foreign ministry in Rome later also summoned the Indian ambassador to a meeting, according to a separate statement.

"The delaying tactics by the Indian courts two years after the incident is unacceptable and demonstrates India's desire to procrastinate beyond all limits," Michele Valensise, the director general of the foreign ministry, said in a statement.

The two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, were part of a military security team protecting the tanker Enrica Lexie from pirates. They are accused of shooting two fishermen after mistaking them for pirates off the southern Indian state of Kerala in February 2012.

The case has escalated into an increasingly bitter row between the two governments, with the European Union warning that future anti-piracy operations may be threatened if the dispute is not resolved quickly.

"This is the 26th postponement of this case and the sixth postponement on the issue of SUA," Staffan de Mistura, a special envoy of the Italian government who attended the hearing, told reporters outside the court. SUA is the acronym used to refer to the anti-piracy law.

The hearing is due to recommence on February 24. It is not yet clear whether the court will hear arguments from both sides and pass an order on the same day.

Latorre and Girone are staying at the embassy in Delhi during the trial.

(Reporting by Shyamantha Asokan, James Mackenzie, and Steve Scherer; Editing by Larry King)

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