Estonian ship guards' hearing held in India
Another hearing of the Estonian ship guards' appeal against the five-year prison sentences handed down to them at the beginning of 2016 took place in an Indian court on Monday.
According to information available to the Estonian Embassy in New Delhi, the hearing in the Madurai branch of the Tamil Nadu High Court was attended by the prosecutor in charge of the case who presented his arguments. The next hearing was set for Nov. 29, spokespeople for the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs told BNS.
The previous hearings took place on Oct. 19 and Nov. 8, following three postponements earlier this year.
On Oct. 18, 2013, police in India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu arrested 35 crew and security personnel on board anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio, including 14 Estonian citizens alongside 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 bail in April 2014.
After being handled in various court instances, the case was returned by India's Supreme Court to the Tuticorin Magistrate CCourt 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.
Estonia and India signed an agreement on Nov. 15 on the transfer of sentenced persons whereby Indian and Estonian citizens sentenced to prison in the opposite country can serve their sentence in their home country. The agreement cannot be applied to the Estonian ship guards until the sentence has taken effect, however, which means that the ship guards would have to drop their appeal.