Newly appointed Estonian ambassador to India visits imprisoned ship guards
Ambassador Riho Kruuv visited the men during his visit to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Wednesday and Thursday. Kruus discussed the men’s case and living conditions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported on Friday.
Kruuv assured the men that their case was still important to the Estonian state, and that the topic was raised with the Indian authorities every possible occasion. “We will continue communicating about the ship guards’ case with prison officials, the Tamil Nadu government, and the central government of India, and will help the men as much as possible,” Kruuv was quoted by the ministry.
Kruuv met with the prison warden, the head of the prison administration, and representatives of the Tamil Nadu government. At the meeting with Tamil Nadu authorities, Kruus expressed hope that the hearing was to continue without further delays.
Police in India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu arrested 35 crew and maritime security personnel on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio in October last year, including 14 Estonian citizens alongside Britons, Ukrainians and Indians. 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 court in India that was scheduled to handle the appeal of the ship security guards, which included 14 Estonian citizens and who were appealing the five-year prison sentences they received on Jan. 11 for entering India with weapons, postponed hearing which was initially supposed to take place on June 1, postponed by two weeks and then postponed again on June 15, was postponed for the third time in early July of this year.
According to Estonian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maria Belovas, to date, not a single appeal hearing has actually taken place. She noted that following Annely Kolk's August meeting with the Indian Ministry of the Interior, the latter has submitted a prisoner exchange agreement to India's government cabinet for approval.
"Once the agreement has been approved by the Indian government, it can be signed and enforced," Belovas explained.
Ambassador Riho Kruuv presented his credentials to Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday.