Unless Eston Kohver appeals Wednesday's verdict of 15 years in prison in Russia, he will begin serving time in a prison colony with common criminals. According to Russian civil rights activist Olga Romanova, who has set up a NGO “Jailed Russia,” Kohver will not have an easy 15 years.
“It is clear he will have it tougher than others in a colony. Firstly, the majority of prisoners, around 70 percent, are from society's lower classes, people who have no education. For that reason an Estonian citizen, and furthermore a spy, is a person of suspicion, he is the lowest of the low and a bourgeois. I'm convinced he will have to fight,” Romanova said.
“You will lose him during transportation. No one knows when he gets on a train and where it transports him to. He himself will not know where he is taken. It is top secret so as to keep him from escaping on the way. The transportation may last a week, but probably two or three, after which he is allowed one phone call. He can only speak in a language which the guards understand. He can only call a number he knows by heart. He will be in solitary confinement, after which he is allowed one meeting,” she said.
Romanova said Kohver's first meeting must be with Estonian authorities, not with family members, adding that Estonia must let Russia and prison heads know that it is watching the fate of its citizen very closely.
“A consul is top priority. If I were an Estonian spy, I would know I would be beaten in any case. But if I retaliate more charges will be added: revolt agitation, causing grievous bodily harm. I would behave like a real Estonian, learn to endure,” she said.
Romanova, 49, was a TV journalist until resigning in protest over censorship. She launched an NGO on prisoner rights to help her husband, who was imprisoned in 2008 due to a business conflict with an influential senator. She co-founded The Voters' League, an organization aimed at fighting election fraud.
Ambassador: We will not lose sight of Kohver
Jüri Luik, Estonian Ambassador in Moscow, said Kohver's dispatch to a colony depends on whether or not he decides to appeal the verdict. "One thing is for sure, Estonia will not let a situation arise where he would be in any way kept in the dark," Luik said, adding that the consul will continue to meet Kohver on a more or less fortnightly basis.
"There is strong international pressure exerted at the moment, under which it would be impossible to make Kohver disappear."
Editor: J.M. Laats, M. Oll