Video | Call for help: Families of imprisoned Estonian anti-piracy guards address the president and PM (2)
The families of 14 Estonian men who were working on an anti-piracy ship and have been charged for illegal activity in Indian territorial waters are reaching out for what it seems to them last chance of hope: a call for help to Estonian PM Taavi Rõivas and president Toomas Hendrik Ilves.
On January 11th the Tuticorin court in India sentenced 14 Estonian and 21 other crew members of Seaman Guard Ohio to five years imprionment.
None of the men who include Estonians, Ukrainians, British and Indian nationals have admitted that they are guilty. The trial has lasted for more than two years now.
Families were shocked when the final verdict reached them, notably since the two Indian lawyers working on Seaman Guard Ohio case said earlier they have solid proof to rebut all accusations.
"The guys were very hopeful and did not suspect anything bad before the session," the families explained to ERR's "Pealtnägija".
"Yesterday my son sent me a text right after the verdict was passed. "We got 5 years. No joke. Try to hold on. Be brave. I am all right, I am OK. Don't worry too much." I had time to write back: "Son, we love you."," mother of Renee told whilst fighting with tears.
Most of the 14 Estonians are former soldiers, who have been to a number of missions. "They risked ther lives during the missions. Many of our friends never came back," said Rain, friend of Lauri's.
It's seems that when the government needed help from soldiers, they went where they were told to go, Rain said. "But now that the guys need their government's help, very little has actually been done," he expressed his dissapointment.
The foreign minister Marina Kaljurand explained to media on Thursday that Estonian consul in India will soon confirm the allegations if the crew has given the attorneys consent to appeal the verdict. "We are working to enable them to get home as soon as possible," the spokeswoman for Foreign Ministry in Tallinn said.
On thursday, minister Kaljurand also held a meeting with India's ambassador in Finland and Estonia Ashok Kumar Sharma to discuss different alternatives for further actions.
"It has been dragging on for too long. For years, we have been waiting for our uncles, brothers and dads home. Everything seems to be hopeless now. We don't know who to turn to. We have reached a stalemate. If someone can give us some advice, it would help us a lot," Kairi, Raigo's nephew told.
"Mister president, Mister Prime Minister. We are turning to you and asking you to bring our guys back home. The guys are not guilty and they won't ask for celemency there. All of us are aware that you have an opportunity to ask India for clemency and for their return to Estonia. Only you can help s now or try to do that, at least," the families plead for diplomatic help.
What happened in India?
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 Madurai-based court in June 2015.
On January 11th the Tuticorin court in India sentenced the whole crew to five years improsonment. Men have repeatedly said they have no guilt.