Supreme Court rejects PPA appeal over former opera chief harassment ruling

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Supreme Court building in Tartu. Source: Supreme Court of Estonia

The Supreme Court has thrown out a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) appeal over a fine issued to a former director of the Estonian National Opera (Rahvusooper) in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.

The former director, Aivar Mäe, will also received damages in respect of costs, amounting to a little over €9,000, as per the original court ruling which annulled the PPA fine.

Defense counsel for Mäe, Paul Keres, argued in a January hearing at Harju County Court that the testimony of witnesses against Mäe were not reliable, while in February the court overturned the fine, of €400, issued against Mäe by the PPA in October last year.

The PPA said in March it would be taking the case to the Supreme Court to be heard in cassation – meaning an interpretation of the relevant law and not a re-examination of the facts of the case.

The first-tier Harju County Court had found that Mäe's conduct as reported lacked objective elements set out in the relevant section of the Penal Code, meaning the fine and the misdemeanor proceedings it arose from must be annulled.

The county court additionally did not find that Mäe's actions had involved coercion against the victim, nor that his conduct had resulted in degrading the victim's human dignity.

The case followed media reports last June that Mäe had engaged in behavior equating to sexual harassment against female employees of the National Opera, housed in the Estonia Theater in Tallinn, over an extended period of time, though the PPA's misdemeanor proceedings only covered a time frame from late 2018 to the end of the following year. Mäe resigned nearly two months later, in late August, though his contract had been suspended since early July.

Harju County Court ruled Mäe should be reimbursed to the tune of €9,231.60. He and his lawyers had sought €14,699.40 reimbursement.

Via his lawyers, Mäe contested the misdemeanor ruling in its entirety, BNS reports, and denied committing the alleged acts. The misdemeanor ruling covers a narrowly defined period of time, meaning allegations arising from other time periods are not relevant, BNS reports.

The PPA launched the misdemeanor proceedings June 26, 2020, on the basis of the section of the Penal Code dealing with sexual harassment, in order to verify claims by female employees of the National Opera regarding Mäe's allegedly inappropriate behavior.

The misdemeanor proceedings stated that Mäe had committed acts of a physical and sexual nature against one victim at least four times between November 1 2018 and December 13 2019, and also on June 4 2019 and August 6 2019.

The misdemeanor itself was said to have occurred between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on June 4 2019.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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