Ratas testifying at trial of former minister depends on defense tactics

Mailis Reps
Mailis Reps Source: ERR Screenshot

Former Education and Research Minister Mailis Reps (Center) has not yet decided whether to call Center Party leader and former Prime Minister Jüri Ratas to the courtroom as a witness during an ongoing trial, in which she stands charged of misusing ministry funds.

According to Reps, decisions about who will appear on the witness stand during the trial, depend on the tactics adopted by her legal defense team.

Having previously heard the testimonies of witnesses called by the prosecution, this Friday the trial continued, with witnesses called by Mailis Reps' defense team taking to the stand, starting with former head of communications at the Ministry of Education and Research Tarmu Kurm.

Speaking about the trial on Friday, Reps shed further light on who the defense plans to call upon as witnesses.

During  preliminary hearings, Reps' defense lawyers said, that they planned to call as many as 59 people to the court as witnesses. These include Chancellor of Justice Ülle Madise and State Secretary Taimar Peterkop, as well as key figures from the previous government Jüri Ratas, Mart Helme (EKRE) and current Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa).

"From a legal perspective, apart from the political scandal, there are two sides to this," said Reps. "On the one hand there is the purely personal side, including children and education. And on the other hand, there is work. Since I have been a politician for over 20 years, politicians can also act as witnesses."

Asked by ERR whether Center Party leader Jüri Ratas would be among the politicians called, Reps said, "We have named a lot of politicians in the list of potential witnesses. However, who we call and do not call is still very much a question of defense tactics."

Reps added, that the trial had had an effect on her children, who, due to the high-profile nature of the proceedings are clearly identifiable.

"When your life is being discussed, and, in the case of my children every detail clearly focused on, in fact, the children feel quite affected (by it)," Reps said.

Reps' trial started on February 7 this year. Reps is charged under two sections of the penal code, referring to misappropriation and fraud.

The first charge relates to the use of a ministry car and its fuel for non-official purposes, including for the school run, and for hosting and organizing a birthday party using ministry funds and facilities.

The second charge pertains to the use of a ministry coffee machine which Reps allegedly took home, the U.S. travel expenses noted above, other birthday party costs at a restaurant and expenses related to attending the first ever full WRC Rally Estonia, in summer 2020.

The trial is expected to continue into 2023.


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Editor: Michael Cole

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