«I stay away from the Al-Qaeda and Taliban bunch and mind my own business»

Toomas Randlo
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Photo: Repro

It's quite a feat for the ship guards to talk to loved ones. Cannot call over the phone, no Internet...  The usual is for acquaintances to take letters into the prison, and then take the answers out. My interview with Lauri Ader went via his mother emailing back and forth with people in India. 

-How have these past months been?

Terribly hot, 38 Celsius in shadow and almost no wind.

Some funny birds have come around. They’re nice during the day but fly awful fast in the night, screaming. And, by the sound of it, crushing to their death into walls...

Otherwise it’s the same old thing. We cook our own food, getting 100 grams of chicken per person bones included in a day, plus some potatoes and rice.

We have a prison store here were we are allowed to spend 450 rupees [about €6] a week. For that we need to buy drinking water and hygiene items. As for bigger items like a mop to wash the floors and costs above 450 rupees, we need to agree with the prison to not get into the red.

Basically we’d need to do other work for which they promised to pay after a year of test time. My job bas called tag master. No idea what it means. As I was invited to work I told them not too nicely I was not appointed to forced labour and was not about to move a finger for their state. They haven’t invited me back.

-Have living conditions improved?

Regrettably not, we are squeezed like into a cage. Stumbling over one another. Have to refrain from getting upset, getting some fight going.

-How do the other inmates treat you, do you get along? And with the jailors?

I do not communicate with the inmates. How does one communicate with a paedophile, or a terrorist?

Also, most are here for life and they would not mind sticking an extra hole into you. The more so that they know who we are... so I stay away from the local Al-Qaeda and Taliban bunch and mind my own business.

Don’t talk much with the guards, no better than the local recidivists.

-How do you keep contact with outside world, get the news? How often are you visited (by relatives, lawyer, embassy people)?

With outside world, by letter. The consul last came with an Estonian TV crew. Can’t remember, a few months back I guess.

Us Estonians have not much visitors.  A few acquaintances do come, occasionally. The lawyer visits us not. The Britons have visitors, via them we can forward letters.

-The conviction in January has been appealed, as well as the refusal to be freed against bail. Repeatedly, India has proven to be unpredictable, but what are your feelings as the court sessions near, in June? What are the lawyers saying, are they still hopeful?

A session? Don’t know… Not informed… We have no adequate information regarding our case, cannot comment.

What I do know is that Palanivel Muthusamy no longer represents us, he was not doing a diligent job. Never even filed the bail application. He filed a postpone application which was not granted, and for that demanded 1,500 dollars from each of us. Therefore with the Brits and their families we decided to swap Muthusamy for the previous lawyer Thushara James, as a person whom we trust, an UK top lawyer Stephen Askins let us know there was no other option.

I do know there are shorthand notes of the Tuticorin court sessions where a border guard ship commodore says we were in international waters and he took control of our vessel under orders, but does not know who issued the orders. Also, there is testimony by weapons expert saying our weapons were legal.

I do know, also, that the lawyers do hope for strong support by our state as they have also been explained this is a political game with innocent people and their destinies used as pawns.

-Anything else you want to get off your chest?

The feelings inside… In all of us… The hopelessness… The anger… One feels like yelling it out, but at whom?

What India is doing with our families is unpardonable. The anguish the loved ones have had to endure because of India. They know what work we were doing, and the risks involved. Sure, on the job we risked our lives, but not being taken hostages by India a «democratic state based on rule of law».

Like a member of British parliament member said that «India violating human rights of the ship guards should not affect our further relations.»