Italian marines Massimiliano Latorre, left, and Salvatore Girone pictured in Rome last year. Pic: AP.

NEW DELHI (AP) — The government told India’s top court Monday that it will not use a severe anti-piracy law when it tries two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in 2012.

Government attorneys told the Supreme Court that the law, which carries the death penalty, will not apply in the case.

India has previously ruled out the possibility of a death penalty but said it would still prosecute the marines under the anti-piracy law.

The Italian government has strongly protested India’s position and sought U.N. and European Union intervention in easing the deadlock.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone were providing security aboard a cargo ship in February 2012 when they opened fire on a fishing boat they mistook for a pirate craft and killed two Indian fishermen. The marines are on bail pending trial, and are living and working at the Italian Embassy in New Delhi.

The case has sparked a bitter row between the two nations. Last week, Italy recalled its ambassador to India to register protest over the delay in filing charges against the marines.

Italy also has fought India’s insistence on prosecuting the marines, saying the shooting happened in international waters during an international anti-piracy mission and thus Rome, not India, should have jurisdiction.

India’s Home Ministry has entrusted the investigation to an anti-terrorism agency. The Indian attorney general has blamed delays in the case on witnesses from the cargo ship failing to return to India to give evidence.

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