Newspaper: India may not be ready to sign prisoner transfer agreement (2)

The appeal hearing of 14 Estonian ship guards arrested and sentenced to prison in India has been postponed three times. (Postimees/Scanpix)
7/28/2016 10:10 AM
Source: BNS
Category: News

The Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Legal and Consular Affairs Undersecretary Annely Kolk is to head to India this week to sign an agreement on the transfer of 14 criminally convicted Estonian ship guards between the two countries, however it is still uncertain whether or not India is ready to sign the agreement.

Estonian daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) reported that the Estonian government had approved the agreement on July 7 and Estonia had informed India of its readiness to sign the agreement during Kolk's visit, however it still remained uncertain whether India would be able to finish its procedures by the time she arrived in India.

According to Kolk, the agreement proceedings were headed by the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs, and according to the Estonian Embassy in New Delhi, the Indian ministry had yet to approve the agreement. "If India is not ready to sign the agreement at the beginning of August, I plan on meeting with representatives of the Ministry of Home Affairs in order to discuss the state of the agreement's proceedings and other issues concerning it," said Kolk.

If India is not ready to sign the agreement during the undersecretary's visit at the beginning of August, it may be signed in India later by the Estonian ambassador, or in the course of other bilateral meetings.

On October 18, 2013, police in Tamil Nadu, India's southernmost state, arrested 35 crew and security personnel onboard the anti-piracy vessel MV Seaman Guard Ohio, including 14 Estonian citizens as well as citizens of the UK, Ukraine and India. They were charged in December of that 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 courts, the case was returned by India's Supreme Court to the Tuticorin Magistrate Court, which on January 11 of this year sentenced the men to five years' imprisonment. In late January, the ship guards decided to appeal the verdict and applied for bail. The bail application was rejected on February 29.

The appeal hearing was set for June 1 but has yet to take place after it has been postponed three times.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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