The first-tier Harju County Court has decided to partly annul a fine imposed on a long-serving diplomat, Clyde Kull, in a misdemeanor case.
The regulation concerning documentation dating back the 1990s has changed over time since then, is the reason given.
With regard to the handling of classified documents from a later date, the court upheld a €400 fine imposed on Kull, a former Estonian Ambassador to France.
Kull's lawyer, Aivar Pilv, says the original criminal case was reclassified as a misdemeanor in violation of the requirements for the handling of classified foreign information, due to the fact that approximately 10 of the original approximately 144 documents relating to the case and the charge of mishandling, subsequently remained.
The court partly annulled the decision pertaining to the documents found at Kull's place of residence in Estonia, which resulted in a €600 fine imposed on Kull. With regard to the second section, which concerns documents at the embassy in Paris, dating to 2008-2009, the decision of the misdemeanor case remained in force.
According to the court, the regulation of state secrets and classified foreign information has changed over the past 30 years, but Kull, as the holder of that information, had an obligation to check the level of classification of documents which were in his possession, and to comply with the storage requirements according to current law, which he had not done.
Due to the age and content of the classified documents, the court does not consider Kull's level of guilt in this matter to be high, however.
Aivar Pilv said: "The court found that in the case of documents dating from the '90s, the regulation was unclear and therefore the violation is not so serious, and it is expedient to end the procedure."
Regarding the other documents, which the court fined Kull €400 for, the court found that the documents dated to a period when there was a clearer regulation on their handling, and therefore left the penalty decision imposed by the out-of-court procedure unchanged.
The Harju County Court decision has not entered into force, and can be appealed at the Supreme Court within 30 days. According to Kull's lawyer, Pilv, there has not yet been time to review the decision to make a decision.
At the same time, a criminal case under the embezzlement section of the Penal Code continues, under which Kull is charged witht he improper use of representation expenses. "The criminal case continues and has reached the point where a preliminary hearing was held last week. The substantive hearing of the case will take place on March 1," Pilv said.
ISS: Protection of state secrets must be taken seriously
The Internal Security Service (ISS), who issued the fines, has responded to the Harju County Court decision, and sent out a press release.
The press release stated that: "The court has found that Clyde Kull committed misdemeanors relating to the violation of state secrets and classified foreign information protection requirements charged against him."
"In one instance, the court upheld the fine imposed by the ISS. In another instance, the court closed the misdemeanor proceedings, on the grounds of expediency," ISS spokesperson Olja Kivistik said.
"The protection of a state secret is not just something to pay lip service to, but its disclosure can endanger Estonia's security, or damage foreign relations. Intentionally or negligently violating the handling of a state secret cannot involve an exemption from responsibility, which is why we consider it very important that those persons dealing with the processing of state secrets take this responsibility seriously," she added.
Kivistik noted that the classification of state secrets or classified foreign information expires when the deadlines stipulated in the legislation expire, or if the creator of the classified information themselves finds that the information no longer needs protection."
"Classified information carriers and documents and classified foreign information must always be stored properly, and the holder of such information must do everything to prevent access to them by persons without a need to know basis and without the right to access," Kivistik went on.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja