Harju County Court on Thursday ordered the Estonian Forensic Science Institute to conduct a new assessment to determine whether Tallinn ex-mayor and former longtime Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar, who stands accused of corruption, is medically fit to stand trial.
The assessment will be carried out in stationary form, and the institute will decide who will make up the expert committee to assess Savisaar's health. While it is very likely that Savisaar's attending physician Peep Põdder will not be on the committee, the court had asked Põdder at a closed hearing last month whom he believed should be on the committee.
According to the court, the assessment should answer two main questions — whether Savisaar is capable of attending court hearings, and whether he would be able to serve a sentence if found guilty.
It is not yet known when the assessment will be completed.
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