Among the Centre Party's ranks are 318 members with criminal punishments still in force, it appears from the results of investigative work done by daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL).
According to the party statutes adopted in October 2018, the Centre Party does not allow among its ranks any members with criminal punishments still in force. As defined by the Criminal Records Database Act, a criminal punishment remains in force for one to three or five years after a punishment has been carried.
The Centre Party currently has 318 members with punishments in force, 98 of whom have yet to carry their punishment, the paper noted.
According to Centre Party Secretary General Mihhail Korb, the changes made to the party statutes affecting those with criminal punishments still in force do not apply retroactively.
"In other cases, such as those in which a criminal punishment is no longer in force but the type of offence was very serious, the party board has made decisions accordingly," Mr Korb explained, citing as an example eight members kicked out of the party in connection with sexual offences which were brought to light by investigative work done by daily Õhtuleht.
The issue, Mr Korb explained, was the fact that if a member of the party receives a criminal sentence, the party is not notified. "Thus we have submitted to the Centre of Registers and Information Systems (RIK) a request to notify the party automatically of any criminal punishments," he noted, adding that the party has also begun devising opportunities for conducting internal checks as well.
Similar issues have been turned up by investigative journalism with every major political party in Estonia.
"If someone has carried their punishment, contributing to society, including by joining a political party, is not impeded, nor should it be generally in a country with the rule of law," Mr Korb said in defence of the Centre members in question.
Editor: Aili Vahtla