Estonian consul in India allowed to visit ship guards in prison ({{commentsTotal}})

An Estonian consul in India was on Thursday allowed to visit imprisoned ship guards in the city of Chennai.

"The consul got an opportunity to meet with the ship guards on Thursday afternoon," spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry Maria Belovas told BNS on Friday.

The Estonian official helped to solve problems related to the men's everyday life and carried letters in both directions, she said.

In addition to solving issues that have emerged in prison, help with everyday problems also means assistance with terminating contracts for the men's last residence and other formalities, the spokeswoman said.

On the subject of the ship guards' future plans, Belovas stressed that they have not yet decided whether to appeal the sentence of five years of imprisonment or seek a pardon.

According to the Foreign Ministry, the ship guards were also visited by their lawyers between the consul's visits yesterday and a week ago.

Belovas said the time of the consul's next visit is not yet known but in her words getting permission does not take so long that the official should file an application right away. At the same time the consul can help improve the ship guards' prison conditions without visiting through contacts with the Indian authorities.

The consul's previous meeting with the ship guards took place on January 14.

Police in India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu on October 18, 2013 arrested 35 crew and security personnel on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio, 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 high court of Tamil Nadu cleared all members of the crew and ship guards except for the captain of the charges in July of the same year but the Tamil Nadu police appealed the verdict in India's top court. The Supreme Court of India gave the Tamil Nadu court six months to handle the case when it referred it back to the lower-level court in June 2015. The Tuticorin court last week sentenced the anti-piracy guards to five years' imprisonment.

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