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Indian court acquits Estonian ship guards

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India's Chennai court on Monday ruled in favor of all 35 ship guards, including 14 Estonians, in their appeal against the trial court's judgment convicting them.

The Estonian consul will arrive in Chennai on Monday evening to meet the men at the first opportunity.

Allegedly the Indian prosecutor's office can appeal the decision in 90 days.

Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser promised to do everything in his power for the 14 ship guards who were acquitted by a court in India on Monday to return to Estonia as soon as possible.

«The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the embassy will do everything in their power to help the men quickly return to their families,» Mikser was quoted by spokespeople as saying.

India's Chennai court on Monday ruled in favor of all 35 ship guards, including 14 Estonians, in their appeal against the trial court's judgment convicting them, the media said on Monday.

«I'm very glad that the court satisfied the ship guards' appeal which we have waited for so long,» Mikser said.

«It is definitely great news for the ship guards as well as their next of kin, and we hope that the extremely complicated situation will be settled now,» the minister said.

Authorities in Tamil Nadu on Oct. 18, 2013 arrested 35 crew and security personnel on board the anti-piracy vessel Seaman Guard Ohio. They were charged in December that year with illegal refueling, illegal handling of firearms and illegal entry into territorial waters.

After being handled in various court instances the case was returned by India's Supreme Court to the Tuticorin magistrate court, which on Jan. 11 last year sentenced the men to five years' imprisonment for entering India with weapons. At the end of January the ship guards decided to appeal the verdict and applied for bail. The bail application was rejected on Feb. 29 but the court decided to continue appeal hearings. The hearings regarding the appeal started in the Indian court only in October and the court finished the hearings for the Estonian ship guards' appeal on Nov. 30.

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