Estonian Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand promised to continue efforts to bring home anti-piracy guards who were sentenced to five years in jail by an Indian court on Monday.
A magistrate court in Tuticorin on Monday ruled that Estonian ship guards must serve five years in jail.
Kaljurand said the verdict was unexpected. "Humanly speaking, I of course hoped for a positive ruling, but regardless of the verdict we'll continue working in the name of the men's return home," she said.
The foreign minister also promised that further steps will be discussed with the Indian authorities including the country's ambassador to Estonia.
A consul of the Estonian embassy in Delhi was present at Monday's court hearing and is helping the security guards in their dealings with local authorities. The guards have to decide within 90 days whether to appeal against the verdict, the Foreign Ministry said.
Police in India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu on Oct. 18, 2013 arrested 35 crew members and security personnel, including 14 Estonian guards, on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio. They were charged in December of the same year with illegal refueling, illegal handling of firearms and illegal entry into territorial waters, and released on bail in April 2014.
The high court of Tamil Nadu cleared all members of the crew and ship guards except for the captain of the charges in July of the same year but the Tamil Nadu police appealed the verdict in India's top court. The Supreme Court of India gave the Tamil Nadu court six months to handle the case when it referred it back to the lower-level court in June 2015.