TEHRAN, YJC. -- Italy's ambassador to India was today told he no longer has diplomatic immunity and warned he could face contempt charges if two marines accused of the murder of two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates are not returned for trial by Friday.
The Supreme Court ruling marked another escalation in the row between Rome and New Delhi after the Italian government's announcement last week that it would not return the two marines to face trial for the killings in February last year.
Their decision was in breach of an undertaking in an affidavit sworn by its ambassador Daniele Mancini that they would return if the court allowed them to travel to Italy to vote in last month's general election and spend Easter with their families.
Italy's foreign ministry yesterday issued a new warning to its nationals traveling in India to avoid any public meetings and to exercise extreme caution.
A panel of Supreme Court judges headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir dismissed arguments by Mr Mancini's lawyers that an order to remain in the country was a breach of his diplomatic immunity. "A person who comes to court and gives an undertaking has no immunity," the chief justice said.
The ambassador had lost their trust following his government's announcement last week, he added. "We have lost all trust in the ambassador," he said.
His comments reflected the irritation and anger in India at Rome's decision. Prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh has warned there will be "consequences" for Italy if it does not honour the ambassador's earlier pledge, while opposition leaders have called for Mr Mancini to be charged with contempt of court.
Relations between the two countries were already strained before this latest dispute following allegation in Italy that executives of one of its largest companies, Finmeccanica, had paid bribes to relatives of India's former air chief to win a lucrative contract to supply British-made Agusta Westland helicopters.