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Italy Wants To Prosecute Marines

February 19, 1998

ROME (AP) _ Italy will seek U.S. permission to prosecute the four-man crew of the U.S. Marine jet that severed a ski gondola cable, killing 20 people, the justice minister said today.

The four Americans could face charges of manslaughter if the United States agreed to permit them to face trial in Italy _ a move that would be unprecedented.

Marines train in Italy under the auspices of NATO, and treaties governing the alliance make U.S. military personnel subject only to American law.

The jet sliced through the cable while flying low on a Feb. 3 training run from the U.S. air base of Aviano in northeast Italy. The cable car plunged to the snowy mountainside, killing 19 skiers and the cable car’s operator.

Italian and American military investigators are conducting a joint investigation to determine whether the crew or its commanding officers should face charges.

Italian civilian prosecutors, however, want to the right to try the Americans. Italy was seeking jurisdiction because Italians have ``shown the strong desire that justice be carried out in our country,″ Justice Minister Giovanni Maria Flick told Italy’s parliament today.

``The U.S. will give full consideration″ to the request, said an Aviano spokesman, Tech. Sgt. Bill Lincicome. He emphasized, however, there is no precedent for a NATO member to surrender jurisdiction in a probe involving personnel on duty.

Italy’s request is to be made in the next few days via the foreign ministry.

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