Prosecutor appeals former IT minister domestic abuse acquittal

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Prosecutor Sirje Merilo. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

The prosecutor in a case which saw a former government minister acquitted of domestic violence charges said she will appeal the verdict, given late last month, and will seek conditional jail time.

Sirje Merilo, senior prosecutor at the Viru District Prosecutor's Office, said that the first-tier Viru County Court acquittal of Marti Kuusik (EKRE), whose ministerial stint was cut short after two days following media allegations of domestic abuse, would be subject to appeal.

"I will definitely appeal the verdict of the county court. The deadline for filing an appeal is June 14," Merilo told BNS Tuesday. The appeal would be heard at the second-tier circuit court.

Kuusik himself pleaded not guilty, while his former domestic partner, designated the victim in the case, also denied violence had taken place, while the county court found that the testimony of the witnesses relied on in the indictment constituted circumstantial evidence.

"This criminal case is exceptional in this sense," the court said at the time, noting that the victim did not come appear as a witness, nor did the expert assessment confirm that a possible crime had been committed.

"The matter at the heart of the 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. 

Sirje Merilo had sought a guilty charge and a conditional jail sentence for Kuusik, BNS reports, while the prosecutor now seeks the annulment of the acquittal and the same outcome originally pursued.

Viru County Court acquitted Kuusik, 50, on Tuesday, May 28.

Marti Kuusik outside Viru County Court following his acquittal on May 28. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

A criminal procedure had been launched at the end of April 2019, the same day Kuusik, who was to be IT and foreign trade minister, took his Riigikogu oath.

The procedure fell under the section of the Penal Code pertaining to physical abuse and related to an incident in December 2017 in which Kuusik had allegedly kicked the victim, causing injury which took around four weeks to recover from.

When Kuusik came up to take his oath as minister, in the in-coming Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition, President Kersti Kaljulaid vacated the chamber. The president has since apologized for this action, following the not-guilty verdict.

Kuusik resigned after two days in office, citing the best interests of the new coalition, and was replaced by Kert Kingo.

Kuusik's Viru County Court trial was held behind closed doors, and no information about the sittings was released to the public, BNS reports.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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