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Toobal and Laasi Found Guilty

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Harju County Court ruled today that Center Party MPs Priit Toobal and Lauri Laasi were guilty of instigating unauthorized surveillance, and the Center Party forged documents.

Toobal was given a one-year suspended sentence with three years probation, and Laasi a nine-month suspended sentence with three years probation. The case involved encouraging a third party to hack the email account of Hannes Rumm, head of the European Commission's representation in Estonia. The Center Party also has to pay a 10,000 euro fine.

Former party member Ivor Onksion, the person who actually did the spying, received a 640-euro fine.

According to the accusations, Toobal and Laas incited Onksion to commit unlawful surveillance. He illegally accessed Rumm’s e-mail and forwarded the contents back to Toobal and Laas.

The secretary general of the Center Party, Priit Toobal, is accused in the forging of five Center Party’s income declarations, which allegedly misrepresent cash donations amounting to 11,030.28 euros.

Onksion, who pleaded partially guilty, is unlikely to contest the charge, while Toobal and Laasi told they will appeal the verdict.

Toobal and Laasi were stripped of parliamentary immunity and will face expulsion from Parliament if the verdict is finalized.

Printed e-mails of Rumm's were found by the Internal Security Service (KaPo) in Estonian serving a search warrant on January 6, 2012, at the Center Party officials' homes and offices amounting to more than 400 pages of correspondence.

The Center Party issued a statement in which it said the Rumm materials had been obtained by Onksion, who had found them "lying on a table" and brought them to the Center Party's newspaper when he defected, thinking they might be of interest for publication.

Toobal and Laasi Will Not Resign From Parliament

The two MPs have issued a joint statement, saying that they will not resign from the Parliament.

"First of all, we do not plead guilty to breaking the law. Secondly, the verdict is not final, it can only be finalized in the Supreme Court. Thirdly, whether we are fit to sit in the Parliament or not will be decided by our electorate on March 1, 2015."

Laasi also told journalists after the hearing that he considers the verdict unfair and will appeal. "Fortunately the Estonian court system consists of three instances and I am convinced that we will be acquitted in the end."

Toobal added that the court basically copied the prosecution's stance. "I sincerely hope that the second tier works harder and also considers the arguments put forward by our defense. Today the judge did not agree with a single argument that our lawyer made. I find that this is not good for Estonian judicial practice," he said.

The Parliament regulations say that an MP will face expulsion only when a guilty verdict is finalized. The Center Party follows the same principle.

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