Sa, 2.12.2023

Estonian appeals court upholds Savisaar's suspension from office

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Photo: Sander Ilvest

The Tallinn Circuit Court on Friday upheld the ruling of a first tier court to exclude leader of the Center Party Edgar Savisaar from the office of mayor of Tallinn in connection with his being a suspect in a corruption investigation.

Acting on a complaint lodged by Savisaar's defense, the appeals court agreed with the opinion of the Prosecutor General's Office that the removal of Savisaar from the office of mayor is grounded in the interest of the pretrial investigation of the criminal case.

Savisaar's attorney, Oliver Naas, said he will definitely refer the case to the Supreme Court.

The Harju county court first handled the application of the Prosecutor General's Office for the exclusion of Savisaar from the office of mayor on Sept. 24 and ruled in favor of suspension on Sept. 30.

Naas said during the discussion of the appeal on Thursday that there was no reason whatsoever for removing Savisaar from office.

The ruling of the county court does not substantiate the threat that Savisaar would begin to interfere in the investigation when working as mayor, Naas said in the appeal, describing the statement of grounds by the county court as generally worded and insufficient. He added that nor does the application filed by the Prosecutor General's Office bring the reasons which necessitate the exclusion of Savisaar from office.

The attorney highlighted the size of the popular mandate held by Savisaar. «The removal of Savisaar from office infringes on the principle of democracy, although Savisaar was not elected to the office of mayor by the people,» Naas said.

He also claimed that there was no practical reason to suspend the mayor. «Had Savisaar indeed had the wish to influence city officials, he would have had enough time to do it before his exclusion from office,» Naas said.

The prosecutor, Laura Vaik, said the mayor's suspension from office was continuously necessary and justified because evidence suggests that there is a continued danger that Savisaar may influence witnesses. This threat is not merely of hypothetical nature but rests on on evidence, Vaik said.

«We find that the exclusion of Savisaar from office remains justified. In many episodes the witnesses are people who are subordinates to Savisaar in the city government,» Vaik said in the appeals court.

She said it was also essential to point out that namely the office provides Savisaar with the tools that enable him to influence witnesses.