Supreme Court rules that the detention of former political leader Ain Seppik was unlawful

13.06.2023 Supreme Court rules that the detention of former political leader Ain Seppik was unlawful

In a ruling published on 9 June, the Supreme Court found that the detention of former political leader Ain Seppik on 4 January last year on suspicion of a crime and the use of handcuffs at the time were unlawful.
The Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court emphasised that, according to the Constitution, everyone has the right to liberty and security of person.

The Office of the Prosecutor General justified Seppik’s detention for more than a day with the threat of eliminating digital evidence and the need to interrogate him as a suspect; however, the Supreme Court did not agree with these arguments. The Supreme Court assessed that the Constitution and the laws based on it contain an exhaustive list of cases in which a person may be deprived of their liberty. However, in this criminal case, the county court and circuit court essentially failed to establish a constitutional basis for the detention.

The Central Criminal Police arrested Ain Seppik and three other men on 4 January 2022 on suspicion of bribing a trustee in bankruptcy. Seppik was detained at 11.40 and released at 12.50 the next day, whereas he was handcuffed for 25 minutes.

Seppik’s criminal defence counsels, TGS Baltic senior associates Dmitri Teplõhh and Meeli Rondel, later filed a petition for compensation for damage caused by the offence proceedings. They argued that the detention of Seppik, the use of handcuffs, and the publication of information about the criminal case in the media were unlawful.

According to Dmitri Teplõhh, he is hopeful that the referred decision will, in particular, change the attitude of law enforcement authorities towards human rights. “It cannot be ruled out that this decision will also change the practice of detentions in the future, and such an action will not be used “just in case”. I would like to stress that there were no grounds for detention in this case, the investigating authority and the Prosecutor’s Office did not even assess their existence; furthermore, there was no reasonable suspicion to detain Ain Seppik. It is excellent that it has now been clearly established by a judicial decision that the detention of Ain Seppik as a suspect was unlawful,” Teplõhh said.

The Supreme Court agreed with the circuit court that the use of handcuffs was also not justified. According to the law, this can only be done if the person is likely to assault someone, physically resist law enforcement officers, flee, injure themselves and kill, or damage valuable property. In Seppik’s case, these risks did not exist and the use of handcuffs was therefore unlawful, degrading, and infringed upon his freedom of movement.