Indian court ends hearing arguments of Estonian ship guards
A court in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu handling the appeal of Estonian ship guards against the five-year prison sentences handed down to them at the beginning of 2016 finished hearing the ship guards' arguments on Wednesday and began making their decision.
"A session of the court in the Madurai branch of the tamil Nadu High Court took place today in the case of the ship security guards," Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Maria Belovas told BNS. "According to the lawyers, the presentation of arguments was completed and now we must wait for the decision of the court."
According to Belovas, it was yet unknown when the court could be expected to reach a decision.
On Oct. 18 2013, police in Tamil Nadu arrested 35 crew and security personnel on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio, including 14 Estonian citizens as well as citizens of the UK, Ukraine and India. 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 bailin April 2014.
After being handled in various court instances, the case was returned by India's Supreme Court to the Tuticorin Magistrate Court which on Jan. 11 of this year sentenced the men to five years' imprisonment for entering India with weapons. At the end of January, the ship guards decided to appeal the verdict and applied for bail. The bail application was rejected on Feb. 29, but the court decided to continue appeal hearings, which were subsequently postponed multiple times.
On Nov. 15, Estonia and India signed an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons whereby Indian and Estonian citizens sentenced to prison in the other country could serve out their sentences in their respective home country. The agreement cannot be applied to the Estonian ship guards until their sentence has taken effect, however which means that the ship guards would first have to drop their appeal.