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ERR in India: Ship guards en route back to Estonia

Ship guards from the Seaman Guard Ohio in India.
Ship guards from the Seaman Guard Ohio in India. Source: (Postimees/Scanpix)

Over four years after their arrest in Tamil Nadu, India, in October 2013, the 14 Estonian ship guards released from prison last Tuesday are finally on a flight home.

ERR correspondent Tarmo Maiberg told ERR's radio news that the men had gone through airport security and had successfully boarded their flight home on Wednesday morning.

"The men are flying to Europe and home via a layover," said Maiberg. "A very long saga is over."

According to the correspondent, a number of the men told him they planned on continuing work as ship guards.

Ship guards may not have to pay back state aid

Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser (SDE) is proposing to the Estonian government to release the men from the obligation to pay back aid they had received from the state in the course of their ordeal.

"I am proposing to the government to release the ship guards from the obligation to pay back financial aid received from the state," said the minister. "The ship guards and their families have been in a very complicated situation for the past four years. I do not want to create an additional concern for them."

Mikser also recognized the Estonian diplomats who helped resolve the situation.

"I am extremely proud of the Foreign Ministry officials who put in a lot of effort so that the ship guards could get home," said the minister. "I'd especially like to thank Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Annely Kolk, Consul Mats Kuuskemaa, Ambassador Riho Kruuv, the entire Estonian Embassy in New Delhi and the entire Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

Mikser added that the resolution of the case will surely have a positive influence on bilateral Estonian-Indian relations.

Years-long ordeal

The 14 Estonian men were among 35 crew and security personnel from the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio first arrested in Tamil Nadu, India on Oct. 18, 2013. The men were senteced on Jan. 11, 2016 to five years in prison for entering India with weapons, but were acquitted on Nov. 27 and released from prison on Nov. 28 of this year.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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