Prisoner exchange agreement with India one step closer (3)
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a bill to the government to approve an agreement with India over the transfer of sentenced individuals. This could bring back the Estonians currently under arrest in India for illegal refueling, illegal handling of firearms, and illegal entry into territorial waters.
The ministry submitted its new bill on Tuesday. Its aim is a bilateral agreement with India that would allow for the transfer of individuals who received prison sentences. Estonian citizens sentenced in India and Indian citizens sentenced in Estonia would then have the opportunity to serve their time in their home country.
After ratification on both sides, the agreement would be signed at the first possible opportunity, the ministry said.
Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand (independent) had said to the Riigikogu in April this year that such an agreement would create the basis for bringing back the 14 crew and security personnel arrested by the Indian authorities in 2013.
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 territorial waters, and released on bail in April 2014.
After being handled by various court instances, the case was returned by India's Supreme Court to the Tuticorin magistrate court, which on 11 January this year sentenced the men to five years' imprisonment. The ship guards decided at the end of January to appeal the verdict.