Tartu Circuit Court has ruled that holding Nikolai Ossipenko in custody, is no longer justified. The Court therefore ordered the release of the Kohtla-Järve businessman and municipal politician, who is suspected of corruption and has been in custody since being arrested in early November.
The Tartu Circuit Court annulled a Viru County Court order from April 28, which had granted the request of Estonian Prosecutor General to remand Nikolai Ossipenko in custody for more than six months. Ossipenko must now be released from custody with immediate effect, said Tartu Circuit Court spokesperson Annett Kreitsman.
According to the Estonian Code of Criminal Procedure, in exceptional circumstances such as when a criminal case is deemed particular complex or extensive, a pre-trial judge may extend the period for which a suspect is held in custody beyond six months. To do so, a request must be made by the prosecutor general.
In this case, Estonian Prosecutor General Andres Parmas submitted a request to Viru County Court to extend the period for which Ossipenko was held under arrest. Parmas' application was granted, before an appeal was then launched by Ossipenko's lawyers, Jüri Leppik and Aivar Pilv.
Tartu Circuit Court heard the appeal at an open session on Wednesday, after which an order was issued to revoke the previous ruling made by Viru County Court, which stated that Ossipenko could be held for up to eight months.
Tartu Circuit Court ruled that it was no longer justifiable to detain Ossipenko as a measure to prevent the continuation of alleged criminal activities. The Court pointed out that the prosecution's request to extend Ossipenko's term in custody for more than six months had been made on the grounds that the criminal case was considered particularly complex and extensive.
However, although there are a number of suspects involved in the case, this does not, in the view of the Court, lead to the conclusion that the criminal case is particularly complex or extensive. While the Court agreed that the large number of suspects could lead to longer than usual procedural delays, it did not find that the nature of case warranted the detention of Ossipenko for more than the six months he has already been held.
Due to the extent and complexity of the case, it had already been deemed justified to extend Ossipenko's detention on two previous occasions, meaning he remained in custody for a further four months beyond the initial two-month sentence handed out in November. However, the court ruled that continuing to detain a person simply for the purpose of gathering evidence and drafting an indictment was not justified.
"In view of the state's active role in the conducting of criminal proceedings, the deprivation of liberty that inevitably accompanies detention is no longer proportionate and the prolonged detention has reached a level at which it is unacceptable under the rule of law. This shall result in a lifting of the detention and immediate release of the suspect from custody," the Circuit Court concluded. The Court noted that at a certain point, detention may become disproportionate even if the grounds for that same detention continue to exist.
In conclusion, the Circuit Court found that continuing to detain Ossipenko and requesting to extend his stay in custody for over six months was not justified. It therefore ruled that the suspect should be released from custody with immediate effect.
Editor: Michael Cole