Harsher Criminal Penalties Mulled for Border Crossing Involving Violence ({{commentsTotal}})

The Ministry of Justice has proposed a bill that would make using force to illegally cross the border of Estonia a crime against the state.

The aim of the proposed amendment is to address crimes that have been planned abroad from being carried out and to ensure a quick response to more dangerous incidents at the border. It will also ease the work of the prosecutors, Minister of Justice Andres Anvelt said.

"Pressure on the borders of the European Union has recently increased and it is our duty to ensure that our border holds," Anvelt said. The draft act should offer a legal deterrent and increase the sense of security for Estonians, as well as the country's credibility in the international arena, he said.

Illegally crossing the border, if it involves violence, threats to use force, kidnapping, or violation of state property (including injuring a police dog, or destroying security cameras), would become criminally punishable in 2015. At present, illegal trespassing can be a crime under certain circumstances, but the use of force is not listed among those circumstances.

"Not every case of illegal border crossing is a threat to national security. If a hunter or a fisherman who has no bad intentions accidentally wanders across the border somewhere he is not meant to, he will not be penalized for it. But cases where the crossing is accompanied by an attack against the Republic of Estonia, these must be criminal offenses," Anvelt said.

In the future, trespassers who carry a gun or endanger someone's life could face up to 10 years in prison.

The new act also makes it a crime to purchase a fake ID and retain or conceal a travel or identity document of another person. The latter point will bring Estonian legislation into line with the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

The proposal of the act stems from the case of Estonian counterintelligence agent Eston Kohver, who the Estonian government says was kidnapped the morning of September 5 while performing official duties near the border in southeast Estonia. Russia claims that Kohver was caught in Russian territory. He is now being held in Moscow, awaiting trial for espionage.

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