Defendant Priit Kutser, whose failure to appear in court last month caused a more than week-long interruption in the trial centered around suspended Tallinn mayor and former longtime Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar, was unable to produce proof of his illness to the court on Tuesday.
Asked by the court why he did not attend the the Sept. 20 hearing where he was due to testify, Kutser claimed that he was ill. Asked by the court to specify what he did then, Kutser said that he sent an email to his family doctor with a request to file a certificate for sick leave.
The court was to discuss offense episodes involving Kutser on Sept. 27-28 as well, and canceled these hearings due to Kutser's alleged illness.
Asked by the court why the certificate for sick leave has been annulled, Kutser said that he did not know. "All of a sudden there was panic — after I had asked for a certificate for the court," Kutser said, adding that he had recovered from his illness last Wednesday. "I then sent an email with a request to close the certificate for sick leave, but I haven't received a response to that."
When the court asked whether it was logical that on Sept. 26 he requested a house call from the doctor but was well enough the following day to ask for the certificate for sick leave to be closed, Kutser claimed it was the doctor who had made a mistake in handling the certificate. Kutser said the doctor had called at his door, but they didn't meet since they didn't have an agreement on that.
According to the explanation provided to the court by the family doctor, Kutser on Sept. 20 asked for certificate for sick leave to be opened. However, as it soon became clear that Kutser is currently unemployed, the doctor canceled the certificate. A few days later, Kutser demanded from the doctor a certificate to the effect that he had been unable to attend the court hearing on Sept. 20 due to serious illness.
The doctor explained to him that such a certificate cannot be issued post-factum and issuance of the certificate would have required a physical examination of the patient by the doctor on the day in question. Kutser then asked for the doctor to see him in his home, but he was not home and did not return a phone call when the doctor called at his door on the evening of Sept. 26.
Asked by the court if he had a certificate to produce to the court to the effect that he was unable to attend trial as a result of serious illness, Kutser answered in the negative.
The Public Prosecutor's Office then said that it's clear that the defendant failed to appear in court without valid grounds and the court has the right to fine him. The court said it will decide on an ongoing basis what to do in regard to Kutser.
Charges against Savisaar
The Office of the Prosecutor General has charged Savisaar in using Tallinn city budgetary funds for the benefit of the Center Party and himself, i.e. embezzlement on a large-scale basis, by an official and by a group, as well as in four cases of accepting bribes, money laundering and the acceptance of prohibited large-scale donations to the Center Party. The Center Party has also been charged as a legal entity.
Charged with bribing Savisaar are businessmen Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, Hillar Teder and Vello Kunman. Tallinn City Council chairman Kalev Kallo has been charged with assisting in the making and accepting of bribes; former politician Villu Reiljan is charged with arranging a bribe of Savisaar. Põhja-Tallinn deputy city district elder Priit Kutser has also had to stand trial.
Hearings began in the case on June 12, when the defendants stated that they understood the charges but did not plead guilty.
Businessmen Paavo Pettai and Tarvo Teder as well as MP Siret Kotka-Repinski and acting mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas have already testified as witnesses in the trial. The court has also been able to hear several subordinates of businessman Alexander Kofkin, employees of Hillar Teder's companies as well as city officials.
Of the defendants, Reiljan and former Tallinn official Priit Kutser have given their testimonies. The latter hoped that his case would be closed for reasons of expediency, but the Office of the Prosecutor General did not agree with that.
On Aug. 9, Harju County Court separated materials pertaining to Reiljan from the criminal case in order to pursue a plea deal with the businessman.
Court: Closing case would be premature
The court has also been able to listen to records of audio surveillance carried out on the defendants and review written evidence. The court said it did not agree to the appeals of some defenders to close the defendants' cases for reasons of expediency.
"Ending proceedings under that motive would only be in question as last resort and the court believes that there is currently no reason to employ such a last resort, first and foremost because the court currently lacks a comprehensive overview of the scope of the case," Harju County Court said. "Currently, the decision to end proceedings for reasons of expediency would be premature."
The court has also investigated written evidence about Savisaar's financial affairs, disclosing that Savisaar was interested in owning cash and allowed others to pay for his everyday domestic expenses.
During the trial, the condition of Savisaar's health has worsened on several occasions, and the suspended Tallinn mayor has been taken to the hospital for evaluation on two such occasions.
Editor: Aili Vahtla