NEW DELHI — India's top court on Wednesday granted an Italian marine's request for extended medical leave abroad, before he and a fellow marine face expected charges over the 2012 shooting of two Indian fishermen.
The case has caused a diplomatic uproar between India and Italy because the two marines have been held in India for almost three years without formal charges being filed.
The two men, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, are expected to be charged with killing two fishermen while assigned to anti-piracy duty aboard an Italian cargo ship off India's southwestern coast.
Latorre was allowed to travel to his home country for medical treatment in September after suffering a stroke in India. This month, he asked the Indian Supreme Court to extend his leave in Italy after undergoing heart surgery on Jan. 5.
A three-judge bench approved the three-month extension Wednesday. The court had denied a similar petition by Latorre last month before the heart surgery.
The Italians have insisted the shooting occurred in international waters, and that the fishermen were mistaken for pirates. They have argued unsuccessfully that the case should be heard in an Italian court.
Indian authorities have defended the delay in charging the marines, saying charges cannot be filed without both men being in India. They have also blamed the delays on uncertainty over which law should be used to prosecute the marines, as well as on the failure of witnesses who had been aboard the cargo ship to return to India to give testimony.
Under bail conditions, the two marines must remain within the Italian Embassy in New Delhi. Last month, the court denied Girone's request to return home to spend holidays with his family.