Rome, July 8 (IANS/AKI) Italy has "complete faith" in the international arbitration court in the Netherlands which on Monday began hearings on a request for India to drop the prosecution of two marines accused of killing two fishermen in an incident in 2012.
"Today the hearings opened on our two marines," Italy's defence minister Elisabetta Trenta wrote on Facebook.
Trenta was referring to Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are accused of shooting dead the two fishermen on February 15, 2012 off Kerala's coast during an anti-piracy mission.
Italy claims the incident occurred in international waters and that Latorre and Girone fired warning shots at the fishermen's boat, thinking they were pirates about to attack an oil tanker the marines were guarding.
"The Italian government has utmost faith in the international arbitration tribunal. Dear Salvatore and Massimiliano, you and your families are not alone. A big hug on behalf of the government and the whole navy," Trenta posted.
India claims that the Italians fired automatic weapons at the boat, which was legally operating in its economic zone.
The hearings on the case are taking place at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague till July 20.
Latorre and Girone have been allowed to stay in Italy until the Hague arbitration court reaches a verdict, the Indian Supreme Court ruled in 2016.
The long-running case sparked a diplomatic incident between India and Italy and strained bilateral ties, prompting Italy to seek international arbitration in June 2015.