The Tallinn-based Harju County Court on Wednesday, February 17, annulled the fine imposed on the former director of the Estonian National Opera by the police after a harassment scandal.
The court annulled the €400 fine imposed on former director Aivar Mäe and terminated proceedings in his misdemeanor case. He has also been awarded over €9,000 in damages.
The outline of the misdemeanor stated Mäe committed acts of a physical sexual nature against one victim at least four times between November 1, 2018 and December 13, 2019, as well as on June 4, 2019 and August 6, 2019.
Following the original decision made in the misdemeanor case, Mäe was fined €400, and in the misdemeanor ruling, the time of committing the misdemeanor is set as having taken place at 1-2 p.m. on June 4, 2019.
Via his lawyers, Mäe contested the misdemeanor ruling in its entirety, rejected the statement and denied committing the alleged acts.
The misdemeanor ruling has a narrowly defined period of time, meaning Mäe cannot be held culpable for what happened at other times. In addition, the victim's statements were found to be unreliable and inconsistent with other evidence.
The court found that Mäe's conduct did not have the objective elements set out in the relevant section of the Penal Code, hence why the decision of the police decision on October 21 last year in the misdemeanor case must be annulled and the misdemeanor proceedings terminated.
The court did not find that Mäe's actions had taken place against the will of the victim, nor that his conduct had resulted in degrading the victim's human dignity.
The court found it reasonable to reimburse Mäe for defense fees to the tune of €9,231.60, significantly less than the requested sum of €14,699.40.
Mäe's lawyer Paul Keres said in court that the testimony of the witnesses against Mäe is not reliable and asked for Mäe's complaint to be satisfied.
"The police made a decision on October 21 in the misdemeanor procedure against Aivar Mäe. The police proved in the course of the procedure that sexual harassment had taken place and a fine was imposed [on Mäe] as punishment," spokesperson for the Police and Border Guard Board Marianne Ubaleht told Baltic News Service BNS in October.
The police launched proceedings against Mäe on June 26 on the basis of the section of the Penal Code dealing with sexual harassment in order to verify claims by female employees of the Estonian National Opera regarding Mäe's inappropriate behavior.
Based on claims by former and current female employees of the National Opera, who wished to remain anonymous, the weekly Eesti Ekspress on June 22 wrote that Mäe's behavior towards them has been degrading and harassing. Mäe said the accusations are malicious slander, but later issued a public apology.
Mäe resigned from his position as head of the Estonian National Opera in August.
Mäe's lawyer Paul Keres said back in October that the misdemeanor ruling will be contested as there has been no sexual harassment. "The event for which Aivar Mäe was punished has not taken place. He was in a completely different place at the time. This has turned out badly for them," he said.
Mäe is currently involved in the establishment of the Artium education and culture center as the project manager of Viimsi Haldus.
This article was updated to include details of the charges against Mäe, the court's findings and damages payable to him.
Editor: Roberta Vaino