India and Estonia sign prisoner exchange agreement
Estonia and India signed an the agreement on Tuesday on the transfer of prisoners between the two countries. According to the agreement, Indian and Estonian citizens sentenced to prison in the other country will be able serve their sentence in their own country.
“The signed agreement has a much broader meaning in the relationship of Estonia and India. It creates a framework for handling all future cases,” Estonian ambassador to India, Riko Kruuv, said at the signing of the agreement.
Kruuv stressed that it could only be implemented once additional requirements for the transfer of prisoners had been fulfilled, and if the sentenced individual as well as both countries agreed with it.
According to the agreement, a sentence can also be shortened if the original punishment is longer in the other country than in that of the prisoner. But in such a case, the change first has to be approved by the country that tried the case and issued the original sentence. Another limitation is that a sentence cannot be extended following a transfer.
The agreement was approved by the Estonian government at the beginning of July this year, and endorsed by the Indian government at the end of October.
Ship guards would have to drop their appeal
There is hope that it might help bring home the Estonian ship guards sentenced to jail by a South Indian court, but it can’t be applied until their sentence enters into force. They are currently in the middle of an appeal.
Police in India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu arrested 35 crew and maritime security personnel on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio in October last year, including 14 Estonian citizens alongside Britons, Ukrainians, and Indians. They were charged in December of the same year with illegal refueling, illegal handling of firearms, and illegal entry into Indian territorial waters, and released on bail in April 2014.
The case went through several instances and was eventually returned to the Tuticorin magistrate court by India’s supreme court, which on Jan. 11 this year sentenced the men to five years in prison for entering India with firearms. 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.
A hearing which was initially supposed to take place on June 1 was postponed by two weeks, again on June 15, and for the third time in early July of this year. On Oct. 19 the men finally got their hearing, at the same time the first appeal hearing of the trial.