MEPs call on India to release Estonian, British anti-piracy personnel
The European Parliament will ask India to release the 14 Estonian and 6 Briton seamen detained in the south of the country. MEPs discussed the matter on Thursday.
MEPs call on the Indian authorities to release the 35-strong crew - including 14 Estonians and 6 Britons - of the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio, who were arrested in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu in October 2013 and charged with illegally possessing weapons. The defendants claim to have been on an anti-piracy mission and have consistently denied any wrongdoing. The charges were rapidly quashed, but the Indian authorities appealed, forbidding the seamen to leave the country.
Earlier this month, each of the 35 sailors and guards was sentenced to a maximum term of five years’ “rigorous imprisonment”. They are considering whether to appeal against the sentences within the prescribed 90 days. Whilst recognising the integrity of the Indian legal system, Parliament urges the authorities to release all those concerned pending the conclusion of the judicial process.
The Estonians, along with Ukrainians and British nationals, were arrested in October 2013 for alleged arms violations in Indian territorial waters. The men were acquitted of all charges in summer 2014, but nevertheless left unable to return home, as police appealed the decision. 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 11 the Tuticorin court in India sentenced the whole crew to five years improsonment.
Estonian MEPs have also lobbied European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, to help speed along the return of the men from India.