Prosecutor General: No witch-hunt being conducted against EKRE
The prosecutor's office is not persecuting the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), its members or supporters, Prosecutor General Andres Parmas says, and claiming that it is doing so is tantamount to political forces in Estonia undermining the process of justice.
Appearing on ETV politics discussion show "Esimene stuudio" Tuesday evening, Parmas said that: "I find it extremely unfortunate when certain political forces in a country are engaged in purposefully undermining the work of their own state institutions, and trying to influence the justice process. It is completely inappropriate."
Parmas made his comments the same day that Harju County Court lifted a prohibition on movement of a former finance ministry adviser, Kersti Kracht, one which had been put in place by the prosecutor's office following her release from prison in February. Kracht had stood charged with being the lynchpin of corruption activities whose publicity led to the collapse of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition in January.
Last week, Viru County Court found former EKRE IT minister Marti Kuusik not guilty of domestic violence. Media allegations that he had attacked his partner led to Kuusik's resignation after two days in office, just after a refusal by the president to sit through Kuusik's oath-taking ceremony at the Riigikogu.
This has led to claims by EKRE and its supporters, and others, that Kuusik and EKRE had been the victim of a witch-hunt.
Parmas argued that the county court's ruling said nothing about the veracity of the original penalty, in the case of Kuusik. "I would say that the decision of the county court does not say that the act has not taken place. The acquittal decision of the county court is based on the fact that there are unresolved doubts in the matter," he told "Esimene stuudio".
The media and the public are attempting to portray the prosecutor's office as having simply attacked an innocent person, he said, going on to reject the notion.
Prosecutor Sirje Merilo is appealing the Viru County Court decision on Kuusik, which Parmas said was the result of the prosecutor's dissatisfaction with how the court had handled the evidence in the case.
Another case concerning criminal proceedings against a former politician, this time from the Center Party, was still at pre-trial stage, Parmas said, meaning he could not comment on it.
Former education minister Mailis Reps (Center) stands charged with embezzlement. Media reports last November led to her stepping down also.
Since two of the cases in the spotlight concern EKRE, the question has also arisen whether that party in particular – in office with Center and Isamaa from April 2019 to January this year – was being harassed by the prosecutor's office, a charge which Parmas denied.
"I would venture to say that we are not harassing any political party, nor anyone at all," Parmas said.
Kersti Kracht had been adviser to Martin Helme, EKRE's leader, when he was finance minister.
Harju County Court found that the Internal Security Service (ISS), whose investigation into the corruption suspicions surrounding a central Tallinn real estate project, called Porto Franco, was also linked to the Center Party and was followed by Jüri Ratas' resignation as prime minister just hours after media reports on the investigation appeared, had impinged on Kracht's rights, as had the prosecutor's office.
Kracht spent around a month in prison, while justification for her virtual house arrest was based on fears that she might abscond from Estonia before investigations into the Porto Franco incident had been completed.
Parmas said that what was more noteworthy was that Harju County Court also ruled that communication requests made to Kersti Kracht in relation to the investigation were found to be justified.
A recent European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on Estonia to the effect that the prosecutor's office had not acted as a fully independent body in another criminal case has been followed by a domestic bill which will, if it passes the Riigikogu vote require the prosecutor's office to obtain permission in communications data collection in criminal cases.
The ECJ argued that the prosecutor's office cannot be a fully independent body in obtaining communications data in cases which it itself
Parmas told "Esimene stuudio" that he agreed to appear on the show to talk about domestic violence in particular in order to draw attention to the issue and to neutralize a tendency for the issue to become politicized and for victims to be intimidated into silence as a result.
The county court lies on the lowest tier (of three) in Estonia's court system. There are four such courts (though considerably more court-houses than that), while the two administrative courts in Tartu and Tallinn occupy the same tier. The two circuit courts are next on the ladder, followed by the Supreme Court, which is based in Tartu.
The prosecutor's office is organized on two tiers, with the Office of the Prosecutor General, headed up by Parmas, on the upper level and the four district prosecutors' offices making up the lower level.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte