Minister of Foreign Affairs Jürgen Ligi said that efforts continue to bring the ship guards detained in India back to Estonia and stress to India just how slow their legal system is.
"We have apparently dedicated more money and resources to the fate of the ship guards than to hundreds of other prisoners from Estonia combined," said Ligi. "These efforts continue and we remind India every chance we get that their legal system is unbearably slow for us."
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.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla