Savisaar freed from trial by Supreme Court

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Edgar Savisaar in hospital in Jõgeva. 6 October 2018.
Edgar Savisaar in hospital in Jõgeva. 6 October 2018. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Supreme Court of Estonia on Friday terminated criminal proceedings against Tallinn ex-mayor and former longtime Centre Party chairman Edgar Savisaar in connection with the state of his health.

Pursuant to an appeal by attorneys Oliver Nääs and Gretta Oltjer-Timberg, the Supreme Court annulled a court ruling of Tallinn Circuit Court ordering Savisaar's trial to continue.

As a result, the Harju County Court ruling releasing Savisaar from criminal proceedings entered into force.

The Supreme Court noted that based on the Code of Criminal Procedure, a criminal proceeding can be terminated at a hearing if the court determines that the defendant is seriously ill and thus unable to stand trial or carry a punishment if convicted.

"Regarding Savisaar, it is apparent from the initial and supplementary expert assessments that the defendant is seriously ill," the Supreme Court said. "He has been identified as having several serious illnesses: chronic ischaemic cardiac disease, atherosclerosis, the presence of a cardiac or vascular implant, hypertensive heart disease with heart failure, and insulin-resistant diabetes. There is no question regarding the defendant's serious illness. Rather, the central legal issue is whether the aforementioned illnesses prevent Savisaar from standing trial and, if convicted, carrying his punishment."

As a separate issue, the Supreme Court considered whether a court ruling freeing someone from a proceeding for health-related issues is contestable and determined that it is.

"We do not agree with the stance of the circuit court that the county court could not base the termination of the proceeding on the opinion expressed by endocrinologist Vallo Volke according to which the continuation of the criminal proceeding concerning Edgar Savisaar was no longer possible without it directly jeopardising his life and health," Mr Nääs had previously told ERR regarding the appeal.

"In terminating the proceeding, the county court also drew on the opinions previously expressed in the proceeding by Dr Jaan Eha and Dr Ralf Allikvee which confirmed the opinions of the expert Volke," he continued. "The county court likewise justifiably drew on hospitalisations via ambulance which have taken place during trials, which have in practice confirmed expert Volke's opinion that continuing the proceeding could directly jeopardise Edgar Savisaar's life and health. The circuit court unjustifiably left out these circumstances and based [their decision] on the mathematical logic that six experts are more than one."

Prosecutor's Office: Savisaar wasn't ruled innocent

The Office of the Prosecutor General does not intend to argue with the Supreme Court's positions, as according to the rule of law, it is the court that decides things, a spokesperson for the Prosecutor's Office said.

"The criminal case in question has only been terminated as pertains to one defendant — Edgar Savisaar," the Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. "The Supreme Court of Estonia did not discuss the question of Savisaar's guilt and did not exonerate him, and the trial will continue for those accused of bribing Edgar Savisaar."

Circuit court orders case reopened

Tallinn Circuit Court on 14 August overturned a ruling of the first-tier Harju County Court according to which a criminal proceeding concerning Edgar Savisaar, who stood accused of corruption and economic crimes, was to be terminated due to the poor state of Savisaar's health.

The circuit court found that the termination of the proceeding concerning Savisaar on the grounds of the state of his health had been premature and returned the criminal case to the county court to be resumed.

Nääs told ERR at the time that he would take the matter all the way to the Supreme Court in any case.

The Office of the Prosecutor General accused Savisaar of using Tallinn city budget funds for personal and Centre Party gains, or embezzlement on a large-scale basis, as well as accepting four bribes, money laundering, and accepting prohibited donations on behalf of the Centre Party on a large-scale basis.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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