Court opts to make former opera chief sexual harassment hearings public

Harju County Court in Tallinn.
Harju County Court in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A court is on Tuesday to hear an appeal from the former director of the National Opera (Rahvusooper), who has been charged with sexual harassment.

Aivar Mäe is appealing a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) fine issued in October, following misdemeanor proceedings against Mäe, who resigned as opera chief in August.

Harju Court, in Tallinn, has made the hearing open to the public. Both the PPA and legal representation for one of the witnesses in the case had requested the hearings be behind closed doors.

Legal counsel for Mäe, Paul Keres, had also objected to closed hearings.

PPA spokesperson Marianne Ubaleht told BNS in October that: "The police made a decision on October 21 in the misdemeanor procedure against Aivar Mae. The police proved in the course of the procedure that sexual harassment had taken place, and a fine was imposed [on Mae] as punishment."

Procedures followed Eesti Ekspress article on June 26

The proceedings began on June 26 last year, following an expose in investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress four days earlier, which said that Mäe had engaged in sexual harassment of female staff at the Estonia Theater in Tallinn, home of the National Opera and Ballet, over a prolonged period of time.

Mäe, who now works as project manager at the Artium cultural center in Viimsi, just outside Tallinn, rejected the accusations as slander, though later issued a public apology.

Current and former National Opera staff featured in the Eesti Ekspress piece remained anonymous. They said that Mäe's behavior towards them had been degrading and harassing.

Paul Keres said in October that the PPA misdemeanor ruling would be contested, adding no sexual harassment on the part of his client had taken place.

Keres said in October that: "The incidents for which Aivar Mae was punished had not taken place. He was in a completely different location at the time.".

The court hearing is ongoing.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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