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Estonia and UK react to Russia's sentencing of Eston Kohver

  • 2015-08-19
  • Helen Wright, TALLINN

Abducted security service worker Eston Kohver who was abducted from the Estonian border last year, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison today by a Russian court.
 
Kohver was charged with espionage on September 5 last year after being taken from the Russian-Estonian border by Russian security forces.
 
He was convicted by court in Pskov of espionage, illicit possession, trafficking fire arms and illegally crossing the border.
 
ERR reported that Kohver’s Russian appointed lawyer Yevgeni Aksyonov said: “Kohver very calmly listened to the verdict and said he has understood everything, when asked by the judge.
 
“The whole procedure may have lasted 15 minutes, not longer, because some of the materials included Russian state secrets.”
 
The verdict can be appealed in the next 10 days.
 
The sentencing has drawn international condemnation.
 
Prime Minister Taavi Roivas tweeted: “I strongly condemn the verdict on Eston Kohver; his illegal detention constitutes a grave violation of international law by RF [Russian Federation].”
 
In a statement he called the court case “staged” and said considering Kohver’s detention and how evidence had been gathered, he had not been “free in his decisions”.
 
Minister of Foreign Affairs Marina Kaljurand also condemned the sentence. She said: ““The abduction of Eston Kohver from the territory of the Republic of Estonia by the FSB on 5 September and his unlawful detainment in Russia thereafter constitute a blatant breach of international law.
 
“Today’s judgement does not change our position. We call on Russia to immediately release Eston Kohver.”
 
Kaljurand added that there has been no fair administration of justice in the proceedings concerning Eston Kohver: “Our consul was not allowed to be present at the hearings and Eston Kohver was deprived of adequate legal aid.

“We demand that Russia act by its international obligations, release Eston Kohver and guarantee his safe return to Estonia."
 
David Lidington, the UK government's Minister to Europe, also called for his release. He said: “I am deeply concerned that Estonian security officer, Eston Kohver, has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in Russia following his abduction from Estonian territory by Russian Security Services and almost a year in illegal detention.
 
“I have repeatedly raised my concerns about the handling of Mr Kohver’s case and called for his release during my meetings with the Russian Ambassador to London.
 
“I urge Russia to release Mr. Kohver immediately, and guarantee his safe return to Estonia.”