“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” is a quote commonly attributed to Thomas Jefferson.
I have followed this conviction throughout my life, in speaking up when I felt it necessary, including at times against what I believe to have been wrong actions conducted by my government.
And for this I have suffered.
I have been away from my Estonian homeland for nearly two years now. I am not an economic immigrant, nor someone seeking a better life outside of my Baltic State; I am a political refugee.
Now it is not fashionable, nor easily accepted in the sanctimonious definitions to be a political refugee within the European Union, but plenty do exist.
My crime was to fall out with my party, the Reform Party and its government, and to attack corruption within it. As a result of this I was charged with fraud and theft, which took more than five years to come to trial, and in a tried and tested Soviet style court case I was convicted.
I was not allowed to call witnesses in my defense, documents disappeared and were tampered with and my right to appeal to the ultimate State court in Estonia was denied to me. To make my situation more difficult, the Director of Prisons went public and said he could not guarantee my safety when I reported to prison to serve a five month term.
So, when I was in London and found out, through the Estonian media, that I was required to report for prison, naturally I did not. Because of the failure to guarantee my safety and threats on my life, as well as kidnapping, I decided to stay in London. The Estonian government next issued a European Extradition Warrant to force my return. So far in every court appearance in the UK these have been defeated.
So here I am, a reluctant political refugee, an Estonian who wants to go home and someone who wants to contribute to the proper fight against corruption which permeates at the top of government in Estonia. I want to also rid my country of the old career communists that now run the Reform Party government.
I am lucky in the UK. I have an excellent legal team; I live in a very safe environment and am blessed with the new friends I have made here and receive constant ongoing support from those in Estonia who have not deserted me.
I have been lucky to meet very interesting people in London, senior politicians included in this group. And in an ironic twist of fate, I now have a higher public profile than any other Estonian in the UK.
And they seem not to be able to get enough of me in Tallinn, either. Every month there are two or three articles written about me.
But what of me personally? I have a deep-seated loneliness for my own people and my own country; I crave to hear my Estonian language spoken and want to speak it myself. I pour over Estonian magazines and books and devour the newspapers online.
The United Kingdom has been good to me; its courts have protected me and upheld my human rights. The people I have met have been very kind and helpful, but it is not home. My days in London are filled with a variety of activities, some social, most political.
But I dream of my country and want to go home, to see the long summer nights and see the cornflowers, to soak in the words of Mis Maa See on, and be an Estonian in my own country again!
Anna-Maria Galojan is an Estonian politician and activist, political analyst and a dissident currently living in the UK.