Speaking in Harju County Court on Tuesday morning, Chief State Prosecutor Steven-Hristo Evestus said that the charges against Tallinn ex-mayor and former longtime Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar, who stands accused of corruption, should be separated from the general proceeding.
"Currently I do not foresee Savisaar coming to court in the near future," Evestus said as Savisaar was reported to still be in the hospital on Tuesday. "He did not want it himself, and his doctor also does not allow for it. This is why I ask to consider separating Savisaar from the general case.
Savisaar attorney Oliver Nääs, however, said that he does not support separating Savisaar's episodes from the general case. "Instead, I am applying for proceedings concerning Savisaar to be concluded, but I cannot discuss these motives at a public hearing, and this should be done behind closed doors," he said.
Nääs added that Savisaar's condition is currently the same as it was last week — that is, that his client is currently in the hospital and cannot participate in the hearing.
Center Party defense attorney Erki Kergandberg said that if the court should separate Savisaar's episodes from the general case, the court must be certain that, after a certain amount of time, Savisaar will nevertheless be able to participate in hearings spanning dozens of hours. If the court cannot be certain of this, hwever, the court should consider satisfying the application of Savisaar's attorney.
Kergandberg added that if the court should decide to separate Savisaar's case, episodes concerning the Center Party should be separated into the same proceeding.
Kristi Rande, defense attorney of former Tallinn City Council chairmman Kalev Kallo, likewise did not support the separation of Savisaar's alleged episodes of crime from the general court case, stating that the court must first assume a position on whether Savisaar is at all able to participate in the court proceedings.
Paul Keres, businessman Vello Kunman's attorney, emphasized that he believed that separating Savisaar from the general case would damage his client's right of defense, adding that Savisaar should be given a new medical assessment to determine whether he is at all able to participate in the trial in the future.
Businessman Hillar Teder's defense attorney agreed with the others that separating Savisaar's episodes from the case is not justified before a repeat medical assessment can be conducted.
Aivar Pilv, the defense attorney of Alexander Kofkin, said that if questions arise concerning the health of the accused, an expert assessment is exactly what will provide an answer to those questions, and to decide whether the accused should be separated from the general case before another medical assessment is carried out would not stand.
"None of the parties to the proceeding doubt that Savisaar's health condition will not improve in time, and this is why an expert assessment should be carried out regarding this," he said.
At a closed hearing on Jan. 30, Harju County Court discussed whether the health of Tallinn ex-mayor and former longtime Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar would allow him to continue participating in the corruption trial in which he is the main suspect.
The court heard Dr. Peep Põdder, director of Jõgeva Hospital and Savisaar's attending physician, as well was Dr. Margus Viigimaa.
According to Evestus, a video conference with a witness in Spain had been scheduled for Tuesday's hearing.
Trial began last June
The trial of Savisaar and a number of businessmen began in Harju County Court on June 12, 2017, when the defendents confirmed that they understood the charges against them but did not plead guilty. Only Villu Reiljan pleaded guilty, and the court decided to separate materials concerning him from the larger case for the purposes of a plea deal.
Witnesses who have testified in the trial thus far include businessmen Paavo Pettai and Tarvo Teder, MP Siret Kotka-Repinski, acting mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas, former Minister of the Interior Ain Seppik, Tallinn city secretary Toomas Sepp and Center Party Secretary General Mihhail Korb. The court has likewise heard testimony from a number of other witnesses, including 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 also testified. Kutser hoped that his case would be closed for reasons of expediency, but the Office of the Prosecutor General did not agree. Reiljan has since been found guilty of arranging a bribe and sentenced to a pecuniary punishment.
The court has also been able to listen to records of audio surveillance carried out on the defendants as well as review written evidence.
The county court likewise said it did not agree to the applications of some of the defense attorneys to close the defendants' cases for reasons of expediency.
"Ending proceedings under this motive would only be in question as a 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 volume of the case," Harju County Court had said. "Currently, the decision to end proceedings for reasons of expediency is premature."
The court has also investigated written evidence regarding Savisaar's financial affairs, disclosing that Savisaar was interested in owning cash and allowed others to pay for his everyday domestic expenses.
Trial delayed by repeated hospitalizations
The condition of Savisaar's health has worsened on several occasions during the course of the trial, including on two occasions over last summer, in June and again in August, when hearings were cut short after Savisaar was taken to the hospital.
After the second such instance, Põdder had told BNS that Savisaar's general health condition concerned him significantly as a doctor. "This will not end well," he commented.
The trial was delayed once more in December and again in January after Savisaar's health warranted his return to the hospital. After the most recent postponement, Evestus said that the prosecution wanted Põdder to appear before the court.
Thus far, all medical assessments concerning Savisaar's appearances in court have been carried out by Põdder, BNS noted last week.
The fact that Savisaar must stand trial was established at the beginning of June last year, when a four-member expert committee at the Estonian Forensic Science Institute determined that the suspended mayor is able to attend the hearings of the graft case and bear liability in spite of his medical condition.
The Office of the Prosecutor General has brought charges against Savisaar for accepting bribes, money laundering, embezzlement, and accepting prohibited donations for the Center Party. The same charges have been lodged against Alexander Kofkin, Vello Kunman, Villu Reiljan, Hillar Teder, Kalev Kallo, Aivar Tuulberg, Priit Kutser as well as the Center Party itself.
Editor: Aili Vahtla
Source: BNS, ERR