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Prosecutor general denies political pressure behind his seeking new post

Prosecutor General Andres Parmas presenting his ICC judge candidacy before the UN in November 2023.
Prosecutor General Andres Parmas presenting his ICC judge candidacy before the UN in November 2023. Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Prosecutor General Andres Parmas says he is not applying for his next post, with around a year to go of his term in office left, as a result of political or external pressure.

Parmas, who became prosecutor general for a five-year term in February 2020, last year applied for one of the several International Court of Justice (ICJ) judge positions which had become vacant, but was unsuccessful.

Now, Parmas is applying for the post of circuit court chair, at the second tier in Estonia's court system.

Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform) says that the primary responsibility for the activity of the prosecutor's office, which has lately been at the receiving end of criticism, is the prosecutor general themselves.

The Tallinn Circuit Court position opens in May, Parmas noted, speaking to ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK).

"My days at the Prosecutor's Office are inevitably finite. This is a temporal post, and in thinking about my future, an opportunity to run for circuit court chair has arisen, so I will take advantage of this opportunity," he told AK.

At the same time, Parmas, 46, said he is in no hurry to quit his current position, last year's ICJ bid notwithstanding.

One of Parmas' predecessors, Steven-Hristo Evestus, was not convinced, however, telling AK that: "While the term is still running, of course, this is questionable and a little poor from the point of view of the institution, in sending signals that indicate that the head of that institution is no longer 100 percent behind it, but rather has looked towards fresh challenges."

Parmas rejected this.

"I think that is definitely the wrong position to take. Deeply fundamental changes are currently underway with the Prosecutor's Office, the most extensive that have been made here over the past 20 years. Next month we start with [setting up] the district prosecutor's office for economic and corruption matters, which means relocating dozens of our people,"he said.

Parmas said he has not been under pressure to step down, even as the prosecution's work has been subject to increasing levels of public criticism lately.

However, according Minister Laanet, said it is clear the head of the organization is responsible for its activities, but that Parmas has not been hinted at in terms of what direction he should take next.

"We have discussed the prosecutor's office activities and certainly every organization can be run better, but to say now that I have told Andres Parmas that he has to leave today, figuratively speaking, well there has been no such statement," Laanet said.

The Courts Act provides the option of moving between the two institutions, ie. the prosecutor's office and the circuit court.

However, the types of cases that Parmas has handled as prosecutor general are not usually permissible to be heard by the district court.

Steven-Hristo Evestus said: "This surely boils down to the work at of the court, to ensure any conflict of interest is excluded, meaning it is not possible to judge or reason on in matters which are essentially directed via the role of the state's prosecutor general."

Parmas himself said he would withdraw from being involved in the types of cases this refers to, which he says are few in number so far as he is personally involved in, in any case.

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Editor: Mait Ots, Andrew Whyte

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