Estonian Anti-Piracy Personnel Before High Court in India (1)
The Estonian marine security personnel embroiled in legal battles in India are still there, facing their next court date on September 15, this time due to an appeal from prosecutors still trying to make illegal weapons transit charges stick.
Although the charges were initially dismissed earlier in the summer and the men were freed on their own recognizance after months of wrangling, the 14 men are still unable to return home as the case nears the one-year anniversary of their arrest off the coast of Tamil Nadu.
Prosecutors appealed the decision to dismiss charges. Estonian ambassador Viljar Lubi told ERR that a justice of the Madurai High court heard both the defense's arguments today.
"The defender made a proposal to bundle all of the separate topics and counts into one proceeding, such as return of the men's belongings and issue of exit visas," Lubi said.
"The justice gave the prosecution seven days to make counterarguments."
Lubi said he didn't know whether the case would be appealed on to the national Supreme Court in Delhi - something the prosecution would have until early October to do. "Hopefully they will see that the case doesn't hold water and they will drop it."
The Seaman Guard Ohio was in Indian territorial waters on October 11 last year and the Indian coast guard escorted it to Tuticorin port where authorities confiscated firearms and ammunition. AdvanFort, the ship owner, said the ship sought haven from a storm. Seven days later, all of the crew members were arrested, followed by months of pretrial imprisonment.