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Diplomats to try to obtain exit permits for ship guards on Tuesday

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PHOTO: Jaanus Lensment / Postimees

Deputy secretary general of the Estonian Foreign Ministry for legal and consular affairs Annely Kolk and consul Mats Kuuskemaa on Tuesday will continue communicating with the foreigners' office of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to obtain stamps on the documents of the ship guards that are necessary for them to be able to leave the country.

Spokespeople for the Foreign Ministry said that Kolk and Kuuskemaa on Monday went to the foreigners' office so that the procedures concerning the leaving of the ship guards could be concluded as quickly as possible. Communication with the office is to continue on Tuesday, the spokespeople said.

Kolk on Monday received a confirmation from the prosecutor's office by phone that they have no objections to the men's leaving.

An Indian court on Saturday issued the full text of the court ruling of the 14 Estonian ship guards, which now allows local authorities to move on with the proceeding.

A high court in southern India on Monday acquitted 35 men, including 14 Estonians, of illegal possession of arms while they were on an anti-piracy boat in 2013. The six Britons, three Ukrainians, 14 Estonians and 12 Indians were given five-year jail terms by a lower court in India's Tamil Nadu state in January last year.

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, 2016.

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