Foreign minister: Early release of traitor incomprehensible

Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).
Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) says the decision to release convicted traitor Herman Simm early is incomprehensible.

"The early release of Herman Simm is incomprehensible to me, even though according to the law, the court has the power to do so after deliberating the issue, and the court has detailed its reasons for doing so. I find these reasons incomprehensible," Reinsalu said on his social media account, BNS reports.

"Simm had taken an oath in his position to defend Estonia, and protecting [its] secrets was his job. He sold our secrets and those of our allies for money. Amending security requirements alone later cost the state €20 million," Reinsalu said, adding that Simm's treason also endangered the lives of thousands of Estonians and their allies. 

Simm served 11 years and two months from the total prison sentence of 12 years and six months handed down in 2009, and is being released on probation pending good behavior.

Reinsalu, also a former minister of justice, said that punishments meted out for treason must dissuade any other future potential traitors and also serve as a form of compensation for the Estonian state.

"There is nothing to be ashamed of about it. All states come down hard on traitors, and this is justified," Reinsalu said.

The minister also expressed his surprise that the prosecutor's office was not appealing the court's decision on Simm's release.

Reinsalu also noted that following Simm's arrest, he submitted a proposal to the Riigikogu seeking life imprisonment for traitors. 

"This now needs to be developed further based on proposals by [Minister of Justice] Raivo Aeg," he added.

Riigikogu speaker: Decision a travesty

Riigikogu speaker Henn Põlluaas (EKRE) echoed the foreign minister's comments.

"Betraying and selling off one's state and nation is an extremely serious crime, which must not be met with any leniency or tolerance. Claims that Simm is not prone to further recidivism and has no access to restricted information bear no importance whatsoever in this context," Polluaas told BNS.

"The judges who made the decision either fail to understand out of ignorance, or are knowingly ignoring the severity of [the crime of] treason and, through their actions, are placing it on a same par with smaller infringements with far less severe consequences," he said.

Põlluaas noted that Simm's release on probation signals to all potential traitors and the intelligence services of states hostile to Estonia to feel free to carry on with their activities, as Estonian courts turn a blind eye to conduct that deeply damages the state, along with the message that the people who have sold out their state and nation will not be made to serve their sentence in full anyway.

President of the Riigikogu Henn Põlluaas. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

"Traitors mustn't be forgiven, and neither should they be released early. I protest this decision and would contest it court; however, the existing law does not allow for me to do so. I am deeply ashamed for the decision by the Tartu County Court and the prosecutor's office not to contest it. The Kremlin will be pleased, no doubt. Now they have the opportunity to reward Simm with the promised medal and rank of general," Põlluaas added.

Justice minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) had earlier expressed his opposition to Simm's release, which both the prosecutor's office and the prison service supported, based on his behavior while incarcerated, his age (72) and health, and the lack of risk that he would ever reoffend.

Simm is a former chief of the security department of the Estonian Ministry of Defence. He had served in the Soviet Militsiya (military police) in the Estonian SSR, attaining the rank of Pokolvnik, roughly equivalent to that of Colonel in most English-speaking countries. In 2009, he was found guilty of having sold thousands of confidential documents to Russian foreign intelligence service the SVR.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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