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Kidnapped security official Eston Kohver sentenced to 15 years in prison in Russia

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Eston Kohver (left) and his Russian-state-appointed lawyer Yevgeni Aksyonov
Eston Kohver (left) and his Russian-state-appointed lawyer Yevgeni Aksyonov

Eston Kohver, an employee of the Estonian Internal Security Service, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Pskov court today. Kohver was abducted from the Estonian border a little less than a year ago, on September 5, and charged with espionage.

The state prosecution demanded a 16-year sentence for Kohver. Kohver received 13 years for espionage and two for illegally crossing into Russia and for carrying an illegal firearm.

Foreign Minister Marina Kaljurand has repeatedly said that the ministry had no illusions over today's verdict. “From the moment Eston Kohver was abducted from Estonian territory, every step has been illegal," she said.

Click here for the timeline of events leading up to today's sentencing.

“Kohver very calmly listened to the verdict and said he has understood everything, when asked by the judge. The whole procedure may have lasted 15 minutes, not longer, because some of the materials included Russian state secrets,” Kohver's Russian-appointed lawyer Yevgeni Aksyonov said, commenting on how the verdict was made public today in Pskov.

The judge reasoned that the 15 years was the result of three crimes. Kohver will also have to pay 100,000 rubles (1,379 euros), but he will be spared from court and attorney's fees. Aksyonov will receive 9,600 rubles (130 euros) from the Russian state for the eight court hearings where he defended Kohver.

“He [Kohver] looked into the eyes of Estonian journalists, made eye contact. It felt that he was prepared for the decision,” Eesti Päevaleht journalist Krister Paris said, adding that Kohver showed no emotions and his body language showed he had already accepted his fate.

According to Interfax, Kohver will serve in a maximum security prison colony, but Aksyonov said there is currently no information about where he will be sent to. “The court in Pskov Oblast is responsible for Kohver and if there is no appeal and the verdict is finalized then Russian prison services will take Eston Kohver under their jurisdiction and Russian officials will assign a colony where he will serve his time,” Aksyonov said, adding that the question now is whether Kohver will appeal. Aksyonov said he will talk to Kohver, as well as the Estonian consul in Pskov, first.

Kohver did not plead guilty.

The verdict can be appealed during the next 10 days.

Click here for more news on Kohver crisis.

Editor: M. Oll, J.M. Laats

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