Estonia to continue paying Eston Kohver his salary

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Photo: Liis Treimann

Eston Kohver, the staffer of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) kept in detention in Russia for almost a year and sentenced to 15 years in jail by a Russian court on Wednesday, continues to receive his monthly salary from ISS.

A spokesman for ISS, Harrys Puusepp, said that while the Police and Border Guard Act sets out compensation in case a police officer is killed or incapacitated for work in connection with the performance of his or her functions, valid laws set out no social guarantees in the event that a police official performing his functions is unlawfully deprived of his freedom.

Although under the Public Service Act the rights of an official to exercise official authority are suspended for the period in which an official is under arrest or in custody, this provision does not apply in the Kohver case, Puusepp told BNS. «It's already for that one reason alone that the Estonian government has received a confirmation that the violent abduction of Eston Kohver to Russia and keeping him in custody there are unlawful,» he said.  

Considering that the ISS staffer was deprived of his freedom at a time when he was performing his official functions in the territory of the Republic of Estonia and there is no regulation regulating service relations in such a case, the position of ISS is that the police official's service relationship with ISS continues. «It means that the payment of salary to him continues. Besides the Public Service Act says that an authority must stand up for the professional interests of an official within the frames of service and trust relations,» Puusepp added.

A court in the Russian northwestern regional capital Pskov on Wednesday sentenced Kohver to 15 years in jail and fined him 100,000 euros (EUR 1,375). The court found Kohver's guilt to be proven in espionage, illegal border-crossing, possession of a firearm and smuggling of a firearm.

The prosecutor had sought a 16-year jail sentence for Kohver. The Estonian security official pleaded not guilty.

ISS said on Sept. 5, 2014 that a member of their staff had been deprived of his freedom on Estonian territory near the checkpoint of Luhamaa on the Estonian-Russian border and taken to Russia by unidentified individuals coming from Russia at 9 a.m. that morning. The security agent, who was performing his official functions related to the prevention of cross-border crime, was taken to Russia at gunpoint using physical force. The abduction was preceded by interference of operational radio communication and use of a smoke grenade from the direction of Russia, ISS said.

Kohver was held in the Lefortovo prison of Moscow until his transfer to Pskov for the trial.