New Delhi, Oct 26: A plan to display the Italian naval flag on Ferrari's Formula 1 cars which are due to participate in the Indian Grand Prix over the weekend has drawn sharp criticism from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The MEA stressed that "Using sporting events to promote causes not of a sporting nature is not in keeping with the spirit of sports."
The Ferrari team had earlier announced that their cars will fly the naval flag to express solidarity with the two Italian marines who shot dead Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala earlier this year. Ferrari described the Italian Navy as one of the "outstanding entities of our country".
Latore Massimilliano and Salvatore Girone are the first and second accused in the shooting case. The duo opened fire when a fishing trawler Saint Antony drifted near the MV Enrica Lexie around 4.30 pm on Feb 15.
The marines claimed that they had fired warning shots in self defense as armed pirates were about to attack the Italian vessel. However, Saint Antony's captain Freddie Louis averred that he and the others on board the trawler were shot at "without provocation".
Since Valentine aka Gelastine and Ajesh Binki succumbed to bullet injuries, the Kerala police charged Latore Massimilliano and Salvatore Girone with murder under Section 302 of the IPC.
Italy strongly protested against the marines being remanded in judicial custody. The country recalled its ambassador to India after the Special Investigation Team submitted a charge sheet against the two accused.
Ferrari's decision to support Latore Massimilliano and Salvatore Girone is "a shame on the nation", said National Fishermen's Forum secretary T Peter.
"Allowing the Italian company to openly express support and solidarity to the undertrials is a serious lapse on the part of the government and sports authorities of the country. We strongly demand that the company be asked to reconsider this," he added.