Tartu Circuit Court on Thursday overturned an order by the lower-tier Viru County Court allowing Kohtla-Järve businessman and corruption suspect Nikolai Ossipenko to be released, deeming it absolutely necessary for Ossipenko to be taken into custody. Ossipenko was arrested at his home on Thursday afternoon and transported to Viru Prison by ambulance.
According to the Criminal Chamber of Tartu Circuit Court, the county court had rightly found that a reasonable suspicion against Ossipenko exists, and that, should he not be taken into custody, he may continue to commit the crimes of which he is suspected. Nonetheless, the county court, for no justifiable reason, did not take Ossipenko into custody, the circuit court announced.
The primary question to arise in the current matter is Ossipenko's health and the question of whether the state of his health unequivocally precludes him from being held in custody.
Namely, in accordance with the Code of Criminal Procedure, taken into account when choosing a preventive measure is, among other factors, the state of the suspect's health. The county court did so, however Tartu Circuit Court's Criminal Chamber believes that Ossipenko's health-related circumstances were given an incorrect assessment in finding that, according thereto, it isn't possible to keep him in custody.
Highlighted by the defense and the county court throughout the assessment of the state of Ossipenko's health was an expert assessment conducted in 2019 and an order to terminate unfounded criminal proceedings from that same year. It was found that, as Ossipenko had been declared terminally ill years ago and a criminal proceeding against him was terminated as a result, no procedural actions whatsoever can be taken against him in this case, much less he be taken into custody.
The Criminal Chamber of Tartu Circuit Court disagrees.
That Ossipenko is not in good health is not in dispute, however the circuit court finds the county court's conclusion implying that Ossipenko's life and health would be at risk in prison isn't right.
The current case involves an expert assessment drawn up on October 24 that was aimed at determining whether Ossipenko is capable of being held in custody. According to an expert opinion provided in the assessment, no direct medical contraindications exist to Ossipenko being held in custody so long as he is guaranteed access to his prescribed treatment and consistent personal hygiene.
It is likewise vital that, should his health deteriorate, he be able to receive immediate medical attention. The provision of care is regulated by law, and Estonian prisons are capable of providing it, the circuit court found.
At the same time, it is important to note that should the prison be unable to provide the necessary treatment, the individual must immediately be transferred into the care of the necessary specialists. Thus the court finds that the necessary conditions laid out in the expert assessment would be fully guaranteed to Ossipenko in custody.
The circuit court finds that the risk of crime posed by Ossipenko is great and that in this case there is no certainty that, remaining free, he would be capable of refraining from committing the types of crimes of which he is suspected. All the more so due to the fact that he wouldn't even have to leave home to commit them, just as everything he has done thus far has essentially been in a home environment, by phone and via various meetings that have taken place in his home, etc.
The court explained that this position isn't even invalidated by the fact that he has not previously been criminally convicted. Taking people without previous criminal convictions into custody is not precluded if there is a high risk of crimes being committed, and the court finds that this applies to Ossipenko.
The circuit court also found that Ossipenko as an individual subject to arrest is at risk of evading criminal investigation.
Taking the aforementioned into consideration, the Criminal Chamber of Tartu Circuit Court found Ossipenko's arrest to be absolutely necessary. The second-tier court found that the suspect's health is not a barrier to being held in custody and said that, as a preventive measure, the suspect should be taken into custody for a period of two months starting with his detention.
Pursuant to the Code of Criminal Procedure, the court order is effective immediately. According to appeal procedures, parties have 15 days to submit a written appeal to Tartu Circuit Court.
At 3 p.m. on Thursday, Ossipenko was arrested at his home at Suvi Holiday Center and transported to Viru Prison by ambulance.
County court lets suspect walk
On October 6, Viru County Court declined to take Ossipenko into custody. Viru District Prosecutor Alan Rüütel appealed the court order and requested the county court order be overturned and the suspect be taken into custody. The district prosecutor likewise submitted an expert assessment drawn up on October 24, 2022, to the circuit court and the defense which deemed Ossipenko fit to be held in custody on condition that he is ensured the proper medical treatment.
Defense lawyer Jüri Leppik requested the county court order be upheld and arrest not be applied as a preventive measure to Ossipenko. The defense submitted to the circuit court an expert assessment of Ossipenko drawn up on April 22, 2019, according to which he has been deemed terminally ill. The circuit court held a public hearing on October 25 to discuss the appeal.
Editor: Aili Vahtla