President issues apology to former minister cleared of domestic violence

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President Kersti Kaljulaid vacated the Riigikogu chamber when it was Marti Kuusik's turn to take the oath of office. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

President Kersti Kaljulaid has made a public apology to a former Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) minister whose April 2019 Riigikogu inauguration she snubbed. The minister, Marti Kuusik, was facing media allegations of domestic violence at the time, and held office for just two days as a result of the reports. A first-tier court acquitted Kuusik of the domestic violence charges Friday.

"The spring before last, I vacated the Riigikogu's hall when Marti Kuusik came to take the oath of office," The president wrote on her social media account Friday.

"The accusations which had been made public at the time were of such serious a nature that I could not have acted otherwise," the president continued.

"It is implausible for an individual subject to such serious suspicions to successfully bear ministerial responsibility. Even at the time, I said that if the charges could not be proven, I would apologize to Marti Kuusik. Today, Viru County Court has made its decision, in which it says that guilt has not been proven. I apologize to Marti Kuusik."

Kuusik, 50, was acquitted Friday, though prosecutor Sirje Merilo is appealing the case.

The swearing-in ceremony of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition took place on April 29 2019 before the head of state, as per standard procedure. When it was Kuusik's turn to take his oath, the president left her seat and the chamber, leaving Kuusik to acknowledge an empty chair.

The president returned in time for the next minister, Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa), to take his oath.

An article in investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian) had appeared the same day, and stated that sources had told the publication that Kuusik, who was given the IT and foreign trade portfolio, had engaged in physical and psychological abuse towards his ex-wife for a period of several years.

Kuusik denied the allegations, as did his ex-partner, Karin Kuusik.

He nonetheless resigned as IT and foreign trade minister after two days in office, saying that he was doing so for the good of the new coalition, and was replaced by Kert Kingo.

The president's PR adviser, Taavi Linnamäe, also stated at the time that the allegations were so serious that the president had had to take the action that she did, adding that if they proved unfounded, she would apologize.

The Viru County Court hearings took place behind closed doors, and no information on the sittings has been made public.

 The court found Kuusik's guilt on the charge of domestic violence had not been proven, while €33,885 in costs is due to Kuusik's party, mainly arising from six months' advance pay he claimed on resignation, but which was not forthcoming.

 The Viru County Court charge sheet stated he had kicked the victim's arm, causing an injury which took several weeks to recover from.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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