Thursday 16.07.2020
HISTORY

Sweden charges two over violating M/S Estonia maritime grave site

The passenger ferry sank in 1994 about 100 kilometres south from Turku, claiming 852 lives.

File photo of a passenger ferry in Tallin (Estonia). Photo: Pixabay.
File photo of a passenger ferry in Tallin (Estonia). Photo: Pixabay.

Two Swedish men were on Tuesday charged with violating a maritime grave site by diving at the wreck of a Baltic Sea passenger ferry that sank in 1994, claiming 852 lives.

The two men, aged 34 and 37, were part of a film crew involved in making a documentary about the M/S Estonia.

A Finnish Border Guard vessel dispatched in September 2019 detected a diving support vessel, identified as the German-flagged Fritz Reuter, at the location.

The crew used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to film the wreck. This constituted a violation of the grave site, Swedish prosecutor Helene Gestrin said.

The film crew included Swedish, Norwegian and German nationals, while the Fritz Reuter crew were German and Polish.

A 'modern-day Titanic'

The ferry was en route from Tallinn, Estonia, to Stockholm when a storm ripped off the bow door. Of the 989 people on board, only 137 survived the September 28, 1994 ordeal, sometimes compared to a modern-day Titanic.

Most of the bodies were never recovered. An international agreement declared the wreck a grave site in 1995 and banned diving there. Finland, Estonia, Poland, Russia and Sweden have signed the agreement. Germany has not.

"The law has not previously been tried by a court," Gestrin said.

Up to two years in jail

Under Swedish legislation, the two men risk a fine or up to two years in jail if convicted. They have denied any wrongdoing.

The M/S Estonia wreck is in Finland's exclusive economic zone but lies in international waters in the Baltic Sea about 100 kilometres south of the Finnish port of Turku.

A trial date at the Gothenburg district court is pending.

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