At the preliminary hearing held at Tallinn Administrative Court regarding the damages claim of Marti Kuusik (EKRE) — who resigned as Minister of Foreign Trade and IT a day after being sworn into office due to allegations of domestic violence against him — against the Estonian state, it appeared that Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) and Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) may be asked to testify as witnesses in the case.
Judge Elle Kask said that if all three potential witnesses give the same account, requesting that just one of them appears before the court will suffice.
In this case, Kuusik would ask Martin Helme to act as a witness, Kuusik's lawyer Küllike Namm said. Which of the three ministers will be asked to appear before the court will be determined in a later procedure, however.
Attorney Martin Triipan, who is representing the state in the case, said that the prime minister's position on not satisfying Kuusik's claim has already been announced to the Riigikogu and has remained unchanged since.
Triipan also called Kuusik's claim falling under the jurisdiction of the administrative court into question, suggesting it should be handled by the Supreme Court instead. As the complaint was filed against the prime minister's letter, which preceded the president's decision to release Kuusik from office, the matter should be discussed in the Supreme Court, he said.
Namm said that Kuusik has not contested the president's decision to release him from office, but rather the prime minister's letter, the phrasing of which was erroneous according to the ex-minister.
"For that reason, Kuusik is not seeking the payment of compensation; rather, he is submitting a claim for damages related to his loss of income due to the erroneous formulation of his release from office," the ex-minister's attorney explained.
Kuusik: Ratas promised compensation
Kuusik told the court that at a meeting held at Stenbock House, the seat of the government in Tallinn, on April 30, at which both the interior minister and the finance minister were present, the prime minister promised twice that Kuusik's release from office would be signed off in a way that entailed compensation for him. It was not until July 7, however, that it became clear that no compensation would be paid to him.
"I took this to court because Prime Minister Ratas promised twice that I'd receive compensation," Kuusik said, adding that he wants this error to be remedied. "I am no some swindler, and I expect people to conduct themselves properly toward me."
The court gave Kuusik's representatives until Nov. 1 to specify their complaint and positions, and representatives of the government until Nov. 22 to respond to these positions. Meanwhile, the court will also consider whether or not Kuusik's case falls under the jurisdiction of the administrative court, and whether a recommendation should be sought from the Ministry of Justice regarding this matter.
Kuusik told BNS that his complaint is not based on him getting a lot of work done during his day and a half in office, but rather on his having to give up the life he led prior to becoming a member of the government.
"There are social guarantees for losing one's job as a result of major speculation, however," he said. "I am currently officially unemployed, because as a result of this damage to my reputation, finding employment that matches my competences is understandably impossible."
Kuusik filed a claim against the state with Tallinn Administrative Court in which he is seeking for the illegality of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' April 30 letter making sure Kuusik was released from office at the proposal of the prime minister to be identified, and is also demanding compensation in the amount of €31,458, or his six months' salary as minister, from the state due to his forced resignation.
Kuusik submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Jüri Ratas on April 30, one day after Ratas' second government was sworn into office. Kuusik said at the time that he was resigning as minister for the sake of the government's peaceful work atmosphere, clearing his good name and the protection of his family.
"I submitted my resignation from the office of minister to [Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE)] party chairman Mart Helme and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas," he said at the time. "Let me once again confirm that the accusations against me are slander; I am not someone who engages in violence. I am giving up the office of minister not because the accusations are true, but rather, on the contrary, in order to focus on defending myself in the criminal investigation and clearing my good name."
Ratas: Nobody promised him compensation
Ratas, however, has previously said that Kuusik, who held the position of minister for less than two full days, has no right to compensation.
"It is true that there is no right to compensation — this comes from the Government of the Republic Act, if a minister resigns of their own volition," he said.
According to the prime minister, he was present at a consultation where Kuusik said he had decided to resign, and nobody promised him any kind of compensation at that meeting.
"At the same time, Estonia is a democratic state, and people can file a claim," he continued. "If these claims are not satisfied, people have the right to take it to court."
The head of government added that he personally would definitely not demand compensation from the state for just one day in office.
On April 29, the day that Ratas' second government was sworn into office in the Riigikogu, a news story was published in the media accusing Kuusik, the newly sworn-in IT minister, of domestic violence against his wife. Police launched a criminal investigation in response in order to determine the circumstances surrounding the claims.
Viru District Prosecutor's Office has since filed charges against Kuusik in connection with an episode of physical abuse.
Editor: Aili Vahtla