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Estonia Disaster Panel Head to Quit Amid Video Dispute

Tallinn, July 22 (RFE/RL) - The Estonian head of the commission investigating the Estonia ferry disaster will reportedly resign this week in apparent protest after Swedish authorities failed to hand over what he said was vital video footage of the ship. Commission head Andi Meister told the Baltic News Service (BNS) that the Swedish side failed to hand over video footage which would show who was on the bridge of the vessel when it sank in stormy seas in September, 1994. The issue of who exactly was on the bridge is important because the Swedish side has previously accused Estonian captain Arvo Andresson of abandoning the ship -- a charge the Estonian side denies.

The Swedish side has claimed that tapes which would show who was on the ship's bridge at the time of the sinking don't exist. Meister told BNS that he suspected the Swedes had cut the footage of the bridge out of the film they showed to the commission.

More than 800 of the 989 passengers and crew on board died in the disaster and Meister says that Estonians are being blamed.

The Estonian transport ministry later confirmed that Meister had said he would resign from the commission this week, but cited only health worries as the reason for his departure. Meister has said he suffered much stress as a result of the commission investigation.