India's top court holds first hearing in Estonian ship guards' case

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Photo: Tairo Lutter

The Supreme Court of India on Friday held the first hearing in the case of the 14 Estonian maritime guards held in India since October 2013, but the court did not make a decision and the next hearing is to take place in April.

The hearing started with the defense speech of the defense lawyer of the Estonians, Aryama Sundaram, spokespeople for the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The court also heard the lawyer for the company AdvanFort, the men's employer, and the prosecutor of the Tamil Nadu State.

The court asked Sundaram to submit a written position to the court for assessment in three days. According to the judge the next hearing will take place in the course of April.

According to Estonian Foreign Minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus involving a defense lawyer was necessary for the protection of Estonian citizens. «The positive thing is that as a result of all efforts the Supreme Court of India has finally started moving. We will definitely retain pressure from our side and will do everything to be well prepared for the next hearing. We hope that the Supreme Court of India will make a positive decision in the course of April,» the minister added.

The police of India's southernmost state Tamil Nadu arrested the crew and armed security personnel including 14 Estonian guards on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio on Oct. 18, 2013. They were charged in December and released on bail in April 2014.

The high court of Tamil Nadu in July cleared all members of the crew and ship guards except for the captain of charges of illegally carrying weapons. The Tamil Nadu police appealed against the ruling in the Supreme Court at the end of August.