Defence minister Elizabetta Trenta on Monday said she met two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fisherman off Kerala in 2012 and conveyed "solidarity" over the long-running case which strained bilateral ties and prompted Italy to seek international arbitration.
"February 15, 2012 was a day to remember because it was when the nightmare began for our two riflemen, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone," Trenta said in a statement.
Nearly seven years on, a court in the Hague will on 22 October begin considering the case (in which Italy and India claim jurisdiction), Trenta said.
"I met the men separately to convey to them solidarity from the government and the whole country," Trenta stated.
The fatal shooting dead of the two unarmed fisherman by Latorre and Girone in February 2012 as they guarded an Italian oil tanker sparked a diplomatic incident between Italy and India.
A long series of delays and fears the marines could be executed if convicted of murder prompted Italy to take the case to international arbitration in June 2015. The Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea in August 2015 ruled India had no jurisdiction in the case and referred it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Italy alleges the incident took place in international waters during a United Nations backed anti-piracy mission.
Girone and Latorre, who have not been charged over the killings, claim they thought the unarmed fishermen were pirates.
Both marines have been allowed to stay in Italy pending the Hague court ruling.