Rome: An international tribunal has ruled that an Italian marine accused of killing two fishermen in India should be allowed to return home pending trial, Italy's foreign ministry said on Monday.
Salvatore Girone and fellow marine Massimiliano Latorre are accused of shooting the fishermen while protecting an Italian oil tanker as part of an anti-piracy mission off India's southern Kerala coast in 2012.
While Latorre was allowed to travel back to Italy in 2014 for treatment after suffering a stroke, Girone has been barred from leaving India pending the resolution of a dispute between New Delhi and Rome over which country has jurisdiction in the case.
He is currently living in Italy's embassy in New Delhi.
Italy initiated international arbitration proceedings in the case last year, referring the row to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague and asking it to rule on where the men should be tried.
In an interim ruling cited by Italy's foreign ministry to be officially announced on Tuesday, the PCA -- which helps resolve disputes among states -- found Girone should be allowed to return home until the arbitration process is complete.
"The decisions regarding his return will be arranged by Italy and India," the foreign ministry said in a note, adding it expected "a constructive attitude from India".
The detention of the marines, the murder charges and the long wait for the case to be resolved are sore subjects in Italy, with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi regularly flayed by opposition leaders for failing to get both men home.
"Happy for Salvatore Girone's return, I confirm our friendship with and desire to collaborate with India," Renzi wrote on Twitter.
Italy insists the oil tanker, the MV Enrica Lexie, was in international waters at the time of the incident.
India argues the case is not a maritime dispute but "a double murder at sea", in which one fisherman was shot in the head and the other in the stomach.
Italy's foreign ministry said the tribunal's decision was "good news for the two marines, for their families and... the government", which would immediately begin consultations with India so Girone could be returned "shortly".
Girone's wife, Vania Ardito, told Italian media she wanted to "thank everyone who has been involved in this case". His father, Michele, said: "If it's true, I'm overjoyed. It's wonderful news".