Court decides to release traitor Herman Simm from jail

Herman Simm.

PHOTO: Kaader videost

The Tartu County Court decided on Thursday to release convicted traitor Herman Simm on parole before serving his full term in jail.

The court, having heard the sentenced person, familiarized itself with the opinion of the prosecutor and the materials submitted by  Tartu Prison, found that the conditional release of Herman Simm before completion of his term is justified. In the view of the court, subjecting to probation supervision that goes with early release will allow to achieve more in influencing Simm towards law-abidance in the future than serving his term to the end in a penal institution. Both the Tartu Prison and the prosecutor's office supported the release of Simm from jail. 

The court said in its ruling that the more serious the crimes that a person is feared to commit, the smaller must be the likelihood of their commission for the person to qualify for early release. In Simm's case the court found the risk of recidivism to be very low. The court found that Simm's access to various classified information and documents that could be of interest to foreign countries or their organizations is extremely low. Potential risk of recidivism is reduced also by his advanced age and health condition. Also, the other preconditions for early release have been fulfilled in Simm's case, such as his law-abiding behavior as a sentenced person and availability of a place of residence upon release. It appears from Simm's profile descriptions and his own utterances and behavior during the detention and in court that he has drawn his conclusions, regrets the act he has committed and will be able to successfully follow law-abiding behavior under conditions of strict supervision.

The court also observed that even though the punishments for said very grave offense, treason of one's native country for material gain, at the time of the commission of the crime by him were considerably more lenient than they are now, it doesn't follow from this that even when the punishment meted out to him years ago seems too lenient at present, his early release should be ruled out.  

The court set a probation period for Simm until March 18, 2021, during which period he will be subject to supervision of conduct, additional supervision requirements, obligations and further obligations, the aim of which is to bring down the risk of commission of further criminal offenses and discipline the sentenced person.

Simm has served 11 years and two months of the prison sentence of 12 years and six months handed down to him in 2009.

The court's decision can be appealed within 15 days.

Simm's requests for early release have been rejected by the court on multiple occasions before.  

Simm was found guilty of treason in passing on NATO secrets to Russia for more than 10 years and sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison in February 2009. His sentence began on Sept. 19, 2008 and ends on March 18, 2021. He has served two-thirds of his term by now and is eligible for parole without electronic surveillance if the court so decides.

Minister: Traitor should serve his full sentence

Convicted traitor Herman Simm, whose release from prison before completing his full term was endorsed by a court on Thursday, should have had to serve his full sentence, Justice Minister Raivo Aeg finds.

Simm has served 11 years and two months of the prison sentence of 12 years and six months handed down to him in 2009.

"I continue to uphold the position that traitors should serve their sentence to the very last day," Aeg told Postimees. "But a court, which is free and independent, has made its decision. Nobody can argue against it," the Isamaa minister said.

Aeg added that a bill drafted at the Ministry of Justice that is expected to be put before the Riigikogu at the beginning of next year would preclude early release for people convicted of specific sorts of offenses. 

"It would apply to treason, but also crimes against humanity, serial killings and serial sexual crimes. The aim is that early release would not lead to repetition," he said.

Aeg said the ministry expects to have the bill ready by the end of January, after which it would embark on the round of approvals and be then forwarded to the parliament.

The minister said he gave officials at the ministry's criminal policy unit a task back in October to conduct a review of the legislative framework to rule out the possibility of situations similar to the one related to Simm occurring again.

Estonian parlt speaker: Early release of traitor Herman Simm a disgrace

The decision by the Tartu County Court on Thursday to release convicted traitor Herman Simm from prison before completing his full term is deeply incomprehensible and disgraceful, President of the Riigikogu Henn Polluaas said.

"Betraying and selling off one's state and nation is an extremely serious crime, which must not be met with any leniency or tolerance. Claims that Simm is not prone to further recidivism and has no access to restricted information bear no importance whatsoever in this context," Polluaas told BNS.

"The judges who made the decision either fail to understand out of ignorance or are knowingly ignoring the severity of treason and, through their action, are putting it on the same level as any smaller infringement, the consequences of which are nowhere near as severe as in the case of treason," he said.

Polluaas noted that Simm's release on parole signals to all potential traitors and intelligence services of states hostile to Estonia to feel free to carry on with their activities as Estonian courts turn a blind eye to such foul conduct that deeply damages the state, and the people who have sold off their state and nation will not be made to serve their sentence in full anyway.

"Traitors mustn't be forgiven, and neither should they be released early. I protest this decision and would contest it court; however, the existing law does not allow for me to do so. I am deeply ashamed for the decision by the Tartu County Court and the prosecutor's office not to contest it. The Kremlin will be pleased, no doubt. Now they have the opportunity to reward Simm with the promised medal and rank of general," Polluaas said.