Eight fined after spring anti-lockdown Tallinn protests

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Protest on the Freedom Square. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) has initiated a dozen misdemeanor proceedings, eight of which have resulted in fines, following April's demonstrations in central Tallinn over legislative amendments which codified the PPA's powers in, ironically, monitoring large public gatherings, as well as against coronavirus restrictions as a whole.

Some of the proceedings the PPA initiated have been overturned by a court, including one regarding the authority having been insulted, while others are the subject of appeal.

The PPA's proceedings mostly relate to Estonia's Penal Code, with only a handful of such violations having been processed since the relevant section entered into force seven years ago.

"To date, the PPA has acted on most of the proceedings," PPA spokesperson Inna Toater told ERR.

"Eight misdemeanor judgments have been handed down, two are awaiting entry into force and three are the subject of court appeals," Toater went on.

The protests in mid-April took place first on Toompea, outside the Riigikogu, moving down the hill to Vabaduse väljak (Freedom Square) after the PPA installed barriers to disperse crowds.

The protesters' main focus was amendments to the communicable diseases act, known in Estonian as NETS, which boosted both PPA and Health Board (Terviseamet) powers in monitoring public behavior at gatherings. The bill passed at the Riigikogu in mid-May.

Another round of protests in Vabduse väljak took place in mid-May also.

Inna Toater said however that a court had overturned a penalty the PPA issued concerning the violation of requirements in holding a public gathering, stating a lack of precedent.

She said: "There is not much procedural or court precedent in Estonia on the violation of requirements for holding a public meeting, hence why a decision made by the police going to court is a matter of good feedback on the interpretation and purpose of the law."

"The corresponding section of the Penal Code entered into force on July 1 2014, and since when only 16 misdemeanor proceedings have been initiated in Estonia under this section, 12 of them this year."

"At the moment, we are waiting for a reasoned decision from the court; after reviewing the reasons, we can take a position on the appeals," she went on.

There is not much procedural or court practice in Estonia regarding the violation of the requirements for holding a public meeting,

A court also overturned a PPA precept in insulting a representative of the authorities, i.e. the PPA itself. The court did not find a misdemeanor in that case.

One of the public order violations is also the subject of an appeal, she said, adding that some of the formerly separate proceedings have been streamlined by being merged into one.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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