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Court overrules EKRE MP's police fine over Soviet flag incident

Andres Aule (in front) and Jaak Valge in a still from CCTV footage of the incident last summer.
Andres Aule (in front) and Jaak Valge in a still from CCTV footage of the incident last summer. Source: PPA

The first-tier Harju County Court has overturned a decision made last September by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and which saw a Riigikogu MP fined in relation to the flying of a Soviet-era flag.

The early-morning incident involved one defendant, Andres Aule, hoisting the flag of the Estonian SSR on a flagpole outside the Writer's House (Kirjanike maja), on Harju 1, in the Old Town. Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Jaak Valge was present, as confirmed by CCTV footage of the incident, and was consequently also fined, €160, under PPA misdemeanor proceedings.

Harju County Court opted to wind-up the misdemeanor proceedings against Valge and Aule, disagreeing that their actions even constituted a misdemeanor.

The pair were charged with raising the flag of the Estonian SSR, essentially the Soviet flag with some extra details, at precisely 5.02 a.m. on July 22 last year and without obtaining permission from the landlord of Harju 1.

The PPA charge sheet stated the activity was disturbing from the perspective of an average member of the public, in that said average people do not usually act in this way.

The presence of the flag itself also constituted a disturbance to other people, the charge sheet read.

The evidence amassed showed that the offending flag had been purchased by Andres Aule, and it was he who raised it up the Harju 1 flagpole.

Jaak Valge had accompanied Aule but did not actually raise any flag.

The court found, Valge cannot be considered an accomplice to a misdemeanor either, since according to Section 23 of the Penal Code, a misdemeanor can be penalized only by the individual executing said misdemeanor.

This means proceedings against Valge had to be terminated.

The court also found Aule's act of raising the Soviet flag was not a misdemeanor following his explanation that it had been done not to violate public order, but to draw attention to the fact that a bas-relief of writer Juhan Smuul was displayed in a public space in the center of Tallinn.

The presence of the bas-relief may disturb survivors of the 1949 deportation of Estonians, which Juhan Smuul, and the descendants of the survivors and indeed all others who suffered due to the Soviet repression of Estonia, Aule had continued in his defense statement.

Juhan Smuul (1922-1971) was one of the most recognized Estonian writers during the Soviet era and was a Communist Party member and a deputy of both the Estonian Supreme Soviet and the Supreme Soviet in Moscow.

The court found Aule's explanation credible in its essential aspects, and that his actions lack the subjective component of a misdemeanor.

The offending flag was retained by the PPA, but will be returned to Andres Aule upon the entry into force of the judgment.

The Harju County Court decision has not entered into force, and can be appealed at the Supreme Court within a 30-day period of the ruling.

A major thoroughfare in the Lasnamäe district of Tallinn is still named after Smuul.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mirjam Mäekivi

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