Prison inmates serving life sentences may soon be free to walk the streets due to a change in the law made this year, according to daily Postimees.
The law, which affects those who were handed life sentences in the 1990s after Estonia removed the death penalty in 1998, was changed in February this year, coming into effect on Jul. 1, but did not get much media attention, Postimees reports (link in Estonian), since it took place while the election campaigns were in full swing.
Under the change, the time limit before someone serving a life sentence can appeal was reduced to 25 years, from 30 years, meaning an inmate sentenced in 1994 could appeal this year rather than in 2024.
Currently, 41 inmates in Estonia are serving life sentences for murder and also rape, but only one individual, Oleg Piyatinksi (60), imprisoned for murder in 1983 and thus eligible to apply for release in 2013, has done so, though the Supreme Court upheld the rejection of his application earlier this year.
In other cases, Eduard Mäe, who murdered three people, and Oleg Borisov, who murdered five, recently also met the 25-year time period, but the courts have yet to rule on them – both the prosecutor's office and the prison service oppose their release, the daily reports – as well as a high-profile case from 1996, where Romeo Kalda, who murdered the head of the Lasnamäe police department, could be eligible in 2021
Arguments in favor of reducing the time limit to 25 years included claims that the crime rate in Estonia have diminished significantly since the 1990s, as well as considerations of prisoners' behavior; Ministry of Justice spokesperson Kristin Rammus told the daily that a prisoner does not need to submit an application themselves, adding that materials would be submitted to the courts regardless.
Editor: Andrew Whyte