Viru County Court on Friday acquitted Marti Kuusik, former Estonian minister of foreign trade and information technology, on domestic violence charges.
The trial was held behind closed doors and no information about the sittings was released to the public.
The court found that the guilt of Kuusik, 50, was not proven, Postimees reported.
"The matter of dispute was whether the accused, Marti Kuusik, committed the crime he is accused of or whether no crime took place. None of the witnesses heard at the hearing have witnessed the alleged criminal event take place," the judge said.
The court found that the testimony of the witnesses relied on in the indictment was circumstantial evidence.
"This criminal case is exceptional in this sense," the court said, noting that the victim did not come to the witness bench. Neither did the expert assessment confirm that a possible crime had been committed.
The court deemed a permission for surveillance activities issued by Ene Timm, leading prosecutor at the Viru District Prosecutor's Office, to be unlawful.
The fact that the victim did not file a crime report was also taken into account by the court, which therefore left the costs of the proceedings to be borne by the state.
The state has to pay €26,970.6 in judicial costs and €33,885 to the Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE). The latter relates to the fact that, when he had to resign, Kuusik claimed compensation equaling his six months' salary, or €31,458, due to his resignation.
According to information obtained by BNS, prosecutor Sirje Merilo sought Kuusik to be found guilty on the charge of physical abuse and for a conditional jail sentence to be handed down to him. The attorneys for Kuusik, Kullike Namm and Kristiina Lee, wanted Kuusik to be acquitted on all charges.
Kuusik pleaded not guilty. Also Karin Kuusik, Kuusik's former domestic partner deemed the victim in the case, has denied violence.
A criminal procedure was launched against Kuusik under the physical abuse section on April 29, 2019 to investigate allegations of domestic violence circulating in the media.
According to the charges, Marti Kuusik hit the victim's hand with his foot during a row on December 28, 2017, causing the victim health damage lasting at least four weeks.
Kuusik, who at the time had held the position of foreign trade and IT minister for less than two days, resigned and said that the allegations made against him in the media are slander. He said that he was resigning as a member of the government for the sake of the government's peaceful work atmosphere, protecting himself and restoring his good name.
Prosecutor says expected different verdict from court in Kuusik's case
Sirje Merilo, senior prosecutor at the Viru District Prosecutor's Office who represented the prosecution in the domestic violence case of ex-minister Marti Kuusik, told Postimees after Kuusik's acquittal on Friday that she expected a different decision from the court.
"If the judgment enters into force in this form, I have to admit that I will be disappointed," Merilo said. She stressed that if the judgment enters into force as it stands, in the future both the police and the prosecutor's office might be tempted to simply close such criminal cases.
The court found in the Kuusik case that a surveillance procedure by the prosecutor's office on May 2, 2019 was completely unlawful.
Commenting on this, the prosecutor said that when potential violent behavior was made public, the amount of information was very big and it is the prosecution's aim to always think first and foremost about protecting the victim.
"Due to the fact that there's a great responsibility to be borne, how the victim could defend herself, or there is reason to believe that the victim will be pressured," the prosecutor explained.
She added that no evidence garnered through the acts of surveillance was handed over to the court.
Editor's note: Comments from Sirje Meril were added to this article.
Editor: Helen Wright