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Supreme Court throws out Õhtuleht vote-buying allegations appeal

Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu.
Supreme Court of Estonia in Tartu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal on a second-tier Tallinn Circuit Court ruling concerning information on vote-buying allegations published by evening paper Õhtuleht.

The appeal in cassation came from Allain Karus and Ester Karus, over the district court's overruling of an earlier Harju County Court judgment.

With it, the district court ruling dismissed the Karuste's lawsuit against journalist Kadri Kuulpak regarding an article which had been published by Õhtuleht.

On July 31, This year Allain Karus and Ester Karus submitted an in cassation appeal to the Supreme Court regarding the Tallinn Circuit Court decision of June 30, to dismiss the suit the Karuses had brought against Kadri Kuulpak.

The suit called for refutation of incorrect data and damages.

Kuulpak had appealed the original county court decision; the district court opted to satisfy Kuulpak's appeal against that decision, and to leave the procedural costs of both county and district court to Allain Karus and Ester Karus, in equal shares.

The district court found that information published in an Õhtuleht article dated November 23, 2020 titled "KUULUJUTT: HÄÄLE EEST SAI 10 EUROT! Inimestel pole midagi süüa, sellepärast müüaksegi valimistel oma häält" (English: "Rumor: Get €10 for a vote. People have nothing to eat, so they are selling their electoral votes").

The article was published in both online and print versions of Õhtuleht.

The defendant ie. Kuulpak had proven sufficiently the existence of a rumor in the South Estonian town of Valga, that votes were bought in the town at the 2017 local government elections, and that those cases of vote buying related to the plaintiffs, ie. Allain Karus and Ester Karus.

The county court ruling on the satisfaction of the suit must therefore be annulled, as the statement published in the article is not false and does not contain incorrect information within the meaning of § 1047, subsection 4 of the Civil Code, the district court found.

A court of cassation is a high-instance court which does not re-examine the facts of a case, but simply interpret the relevant legislation.

Estonia's court system is organized in three levels, starting with the county courts of which there are four plus the first-tier administrative courts (two).

There are two circuit courts, followed by the Tartu-based Supreme Court.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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