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MS Estonia: Swedish documentary makers face new trial for exploring 1994 wreck

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By Matthew Holroyd
The 2020 documentary had revealed a previously undiscovered hole in the ship's hull.
The 2020 documentary had revealed a previously undiscovered hole in the ship's hull.   -   Copyright  TT NEWS AGENCY / DPLAY / AFP

Two Swedish documentary makers are facing a second trial for illegally filming the wreck of the MS Estonia ferry.

An appeals court ruled on Tuesday that two men should be tried again for disturbing the site of the shipwreck.

The vessel sank in the Baltic Sea in 1994 on its overnight voyage from Tallinn to Stockholm, while carrying 803 passengers and 186 crew.

Just 137 people survived Europe’s worst peacetime maritime disaster, while most of the 852 victims were Swedes and Estonians.

An official investigation by Estonia, Finland, and Sweden in 1997 concluded the ferry sank after its bow door locks failed during a storm, flooding the car deck.

But some survivors say official investigations into the disaster have failed to reveal the true cause.

Further doubts about the fate of the MS Estonia were raised after a 2020 documentary revealed undiscovered holes in the ship's hull.

Director Henrik Evertsson and analyst Linus Andersson had filmed the shipwreck using a remote-controlled submarine in September 2019.

The 155-metre long wreck lies on the seabed at a depth of 80 metres in international waters near the Finnish island of Uto.

In 1995, the three countries signed the so-called Estonia Act that considered the wreck a graveyard for victims of the disaster and banned any exploration of the area.

The two men were originally acquitted of violating Swedish law, as they had used a foreign German-flagged vessel to film the site.

But an appeal's court ruled on Tuesday that the Estonia Act should apply in their case and ordered for the documentary makers to face trial again.

"Since the district court has not tried all the objections raised by the defendants, the Court of Appeal has decided that the case should be tried again by the district court," the Gothenburg court said in a statement.

The two men were arrested while filming in September 2019 by the Finnish coast guard and face a fine or up to two years in prison if convicted.

Evertsson told Euronews in 2021 that he had filmed the shipwreck when they found out "a lot had not been surveyed in 1994".

"That surprised us a lot and we lacked information and documentation, and that's why we needed to investigate."

In November, a privately-funded expedition -- commissioned by victims' families -- also began examining the ship's wreckage in an effort to "find answers" to unanswered questions.

Conspiracists have suggested that the MS Estonia had collided with a submarine, or that an explosion inside the ship had caused it to sink.

But officials say there is no new evidence that contradicts the 1997 report and that the new holes in the ship's hull may have occurred when it hit the sea bed.