Attorney General Lavly Perling, Director of the Estonian Internal Security Service Arnold Sinisalu, and ministers Urmas Reinsalu and Andres Anvelt met with the Riigikogu Legal Affairs Committee yesterday to discuss the publication of the case file of Edgar Savisaar and other accused in the media.
The closed sitting was held to discuss an in-house investigation to get to the bottom of the leak and whether amendments could be considered to avoid similar cases in the future.
It was discussed whether it would be possible to restrict the accused and the defense's access to all evidence or shorten the time the defense has to analyze evidence to help avoid potential leaks.
Perling told Postimees that these measures are largely tied to the principles of rule of law. “In that case we would have to restrict the defender's right or limit their access to evidence either spatially or temporally or regarding the volume of the material. While it would be a solution, it would clash with the principles of defense law, which is why we did not discuss it as a realistic solution,” she said.
Another idea discussed was criminalization of leaking evidence. Could making it illegal solve the problem? “Perhaps,” Perling said, but added: “Considering proportionality based on rule of law, would it be sensible?” The attorney general concluded that rather it would not be a sensible solution.
Perling finds that it is the journalistic code of ethics that should deem publication of evidence before judicial proceedings objectionable. “While we understand the press is carrying out its function, the obligation of other institutions to ascertain the truth, maintain presumption of innocence, and conduct fair proceedings could be honored,” she said.
“We have not investigated Postimees; however, I have felt the need to emphasize that we have asked the press, Postimees, to clearly say the information did not come from the prosecution,” Perling said.
Minister of Internal Affairs Andres Anvelt (SDE) said that there is nothing that can be done about this case – the choice would be between going back to Soviet times or continuing as a state based on the rule of law. Anvelt does not support a return to the old criminal code where the accused and their lawyers were given access to case materials in a closed room in the prosecutor's office.
He feels solutions lie in civil law – everyone whom this case has hurt, in this case the accused, have the right to turn to the data protection inspectorate that could bring misdemeanor proceedings. Next it would be possible to demand journalists take responsibility for publishing their information in civil procedure.
Anvelt believes that it is impossible to ascertain how the press got hold of the case file. “That would require wiretaps on lawyers, journalists – are you kidding? Who needs that? It is a matter of the journalist's conscience; there is little else. I believe that sales soared,” Anvelt said resolutely.
Chairman of the Riigikogu Legal Affairs Committee Jaanus Karilaid (Center) said that everyone present realized the severity of the matter. There is no clear solution, however.
“We were given more certainty today in that the internal affairs and justice ministers have done everything in their power to ascertain whether the leak started from a state institution. They were both convinced that neither the security service nor the prosecution were behind the leak,” Karilaid said. He admitted that the source of the leak remains unknown.
Karilaid also said that the circle of people who got access to the case file of Edgar Savisaar and other accused is quite wide – approximately 50 people. The law makes it impossible to determine who was behind the leak. “As things stand, eyes turn to the accused themselves,” he said.