Estonian politician suddenly too sick for corruption trial

A court case was closed on Tuesday, after the most central figure in Estonian politics, Edgar Savisaar, didn't show up for the hearings.

Marian Männi
Marian Männi Eesti Ekspress, Estonia
Source: Eesti Ekspress
Estonian politician suddenly too sick for corruption trial - NewsMavens
Edgar Savisaar 2014, WikiCommons

Why this story matters:

Everyone knows Edgar Savisaar in Estonia. He is a lifelong politician who held many prominent positions, but he is mostly known for being the head of the Center Party (one of Estonia's largest political parties) and the mayor of the capital, Tallinn, for many years. Savisaar was accused of accepting bribes when he was mayor, as well as money laundering, embezzlement, and accepting prohibited donations for the Center Party.

But Savisaar's health deteriorated as the hearings proceeded. Six doctors out of seven concluded that he is fit enough to proceed if he continues with his treatment. Only one doctor stated that continuing the court case could be potentially dangerous to Savisaar. The judge then decided to stop the hearing.

This case shows that if one plays the game well, it is possible to elude Estonia's justice system.

Amazingly, Savisaar was fit enough to take part in local elections and even recently put himself forward as a candidate to be president of Estonia's Skating Union.

Not surprisingly, Chief State Prosecutor Steven-Hristo Evestus suspects Savisaar is not as ill as he claims.

As a result, the discussion in Estonia now revolves around the Code of Criminal Procedure that lets suspects skip trials on the basis of difficult health conditions. In these instances they can be granted immunity. There have been around ten similar examples in Estonia before. Some have proposed that the law be changed.

In any case, the questions remains: how can justice and humanity be combined in court rooms?

Details from the story:

  • In September 2015, during the pretrial investigation, approximately 300,000 Estonian kroons (approximately 19,200 euros) and 186,000 euros in cash were found and confiscated from Savisaar's home.
  • Savisaar has been one of the country's most popular politicians, and is widely supported by Estonia's Russian speaking minority.
  • Savisaar's health started to seriously deteriorate after one of his legs was amputated in 2015.
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