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SAPTK challenging prosecutor office Tarand decision in court

SAPTK chief and Objektiiv editor-in-chief Varro Vooglaid.
SAPTK chief and Objektiiv editor-in-chief Varro Vooglaid. Source: Personal collection.

The Foundation for the Protection of the Family and Tradition (SAPTK), a self-proclaimed traditional family rights pressure group, is appealing a decision by the Office of the Prosecutor General freeing MEP Indrek Tarand from having to return €2,000 paid to him by the organization. The money SAPTK gave to Tarand was aimed at covering fines due from two men who assaulted the MEP.

In December last year, two men, Meelis Osa, 58, and Mart Rieberg, 56, appeared to kick Tarand at a demonstration organized outside the Riigikgou by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) against the UN Global Compact on Migration.

The North District Prosecutor's office found Osa and Rieberg guilty of an aggravated breach of public order, with a conciliation procedure at Harju County Court later resolving the case.

The settlement required Osa and Rieberg to pay €1,080 in compensation, plus €920 in legal expenses.

Tarand refused to accept donations in lieu of accused paying their own fines

On May 23, SAPTK transferred €2,000 from its account to Tarand's to cover the above, noting the funds came from donations from readers of Objektiiv website, a news portal run by SAPTK and Vooglaid

However, Rieberg and Osa also paid Tarand the money themselves as per their court settlement, causing SAPTK board chairman Varro Vooglaid to demand Tarand return the €2,000 from the organization, which he refused to do.

The North District Prosecutor's Office found in July that no crime had been committed, stating the donation did not contain sufficient explanation of its intent or conditions under which Tarand might be obliged to return the money. Tarand also did not fall foul of the section of the Penal Code on embezzlement.

This decision was upheld by the Office of the Prosecutor General last week.

Vooglaid: I fail to understand how prosecutor came to conclusion

Varro Vooglaid told BNS he does not understand the decision, which he says further corroborates his belief that some people are effectively above the law in Estonia.

"Tarand is allowed to embezzle other people's assets while publicly announcing his intention to do so via the public broadcaster," Vooglaid said.

ERR had published a response from Tarand in early July (link in Estonian) to the charges.

"The highest level of the prosecutor's office, completely incomprehensibly, called it a 'rhetorical pun', and that was that. What disappoints me even more than Tarand's behavior is that one cannot rely on law enforcement agencies when it comes to fair implementation of the law in Estonia. As for Tarand, it is clear that he is a fraudster without a shred of basic dignity," Vooglaid said.

"The prosecutor's office has overlooked the fact that the payment made from SAPTK to Tarand included details explaining what the payment was for, and Tarand has both privately and publicly affirmed that he understands that SAPTK's payment was made to fulfill the obligations of Mart Rieberg and Meelis Osa," Vooglaid continued.

"First, the payment instruction clearly states that the transaction was made on behalf of Rieberg and Osa.

"Second, lawyer Urmas Simon, representative of Rieberg and Osa, explicitly informed Tarand's representative by email that the payment by SAPTK constituted the fulfillment of obligations of Rieberg and Osa by a third party.

"Third, Tarand has also confirmed his comprehension of the matter through his representatives, albeit rejecting the fulfillment of the obligations in such form, but nevertheless expressing his understanding that [the payment] indeed constituted the fulfillment of obligations on behalf of Rieberg and Osa.

"Fourth, I have personally explained to Tarand and his representatives what the payment by SAPTK was made for," Vooglaid added, concluding that the prosecutor's office was clearly in error in finding that Tarand could not comprehend why he received the €2,000.

Tarand promised to return funds, Vooglaid says

Vooglaid also claimed that Tarand explicitly promised to return the overpaid sum to SAPTK, BNS reports.

"The corresponding confirmation sent by Tarand's representatives via e-mail on May 27 leaves no room for misinterpretation: "As Indrek Tarand does not take donations collected on behalf of Mart Rieberg and Meelis Osa, Indrek Tarand will return the payment made in such a manner to the sender, the SAPTK'," Vooglaid said, noting that Tarand's behavior constitutes fraudulent conduct, since the circumstances indicate that he knowingly made a deceitful promise to return the money to SAPTK, he claims.

Indrek Tarand's lawyer, however, told Rieberg and Osa's representative that their client disagreed with fulfilling conciliation agreement in such a way (i.e. paying a fine via donations) and demanded that Rieberg and Osa personally make the payments themselves, which they duly did, in late May.

Vooglaid said that SAPTK will be contesting the decision via the civil courts.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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