Kohver trial begins in Pskov, new charge added
The closed court hearing over Estonian security official Eston Kohver, held at a prison in Moscow since September 2014, started today at the Pskov regional court.
Kohver is accused by Russians in smuggling, espionage, and illegal border crossing. The prosecution today also came up with a new charge – illegal arms bearing, which could in theory add 3 years to the sentence. The Russian Federal Security Service had previously reported that at the time of Kohver's detention, he had a handgun, 5,000 rubles in cash, special audio recording equipment and other “spyware”.
Kohver was kidnapped from the Estonian-Russian border by Russian special forces on September 5 last year and was held at the notorious Lefortovo prison in Moscow since. Estonian authorities have always maintained that Kohver was in the line of duty and collecting information on cross-border corruption within the framework of an information collection plan in the vicinity of the Estonian-Russian border, when he was abducted. Estonia has also insisted that Kohver's abduction violates international law.
ERR's Moscow correspondent Anton Aleksejev, allowed to enter the court room for 10 minutes, reported that the Estonian agent was in “relatively good shape”.
Kohver's Russian state-appointed lawyer Yevgeni Aksyonov told ERR that the appointed judge Larisa Bobrova will not have many other hearings in summer and will be focusing on Kohver's court case, providing a ground “to conduct the proceedings as fast as possible”.
Estonian consul in Moscow will not be allowed to attend the closed court trial, but according to Aksyonov, the consul will be able to ask Pskov's court permission to meet Kohver in the court's confinement area. The consul had a meeting with Kohver on May 29, to assure him on continuing support from Estonian authorities, and inform him on the attempts to free him.
Urmas Paet, Estonian MEP, and Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group (ALDE) in the European Parliament, have previously also asked the European foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to use her power to force Russians to release Kohver.
The US Embassy in Tallinn also issued a statement today with regards to Estonian agent. "We continue to be seriously concerned about developments in Eston Kohver case and call on Russia to return Eston Kohver immediately and unharmed," it said.
The next hearing is due to take place on June 8. If found guilty, Kohver faces imprisonment for up to 20 years.