Foreign Ministry slips by criminal investigation

  • 2005-09-21
  • From wire reports
TALLINN - Security police announced on Sept. 16 that they would not launch a criminal investigation against the Foreign Ministry over recently leaked documents that nearly led to a government crisis.

In August the Eesti Ekspress weekly published excerpts from a meeting between Education Minister Mailis Reps, her adviser and employees of the Estonian Embassy in Moscow. The excerpts allegedly cited Foreign Ministry documents, and this in turn sparked accusations of an information leak in the government.

During a recent visit to the Russian Republic of Mari El, the minister was quoted as saying that "the situation of the Russian intelligentsia in Estonia is difficult - it is impossible for them to get an academic education in Russian and they have to leave."

Security police, however, determined that the published material did not contain any confidential information, spokesman Henno Kuurmann told the Baltic News Service this week.

He added that since the Foreign Ministry classified the document as "internal use only," releasing its contents to the media could constitute a misdemeanor under the Public Information Act.

The Security Police will forward information about a possible wrongdoing to the Data Protection Inspectorate, which, according to law, is responsible for handling out-of-court misdemeanors.

"They [the inspectorate] must decide whether or not to start misdemeanor proceedings," Kuurmann said.

Under the Public Information Act, the publication or release of information meant for "internal use only" is punishable with a fine of up to 18,000 kroons (1,150 euros).

In a response to Center Party MP Ain Seppik, security officials said the Foreign Ministry's protection of confidential documents had improved after check-ups earlier this year.

Seppik recently turned to security police with a request to investigate state institutions, particularly the Foreign Ministry, accused of leaking of documents to use against rivals in the pre-election campaign.

The latest example, said the former interior minister, was the report containing Reps' statements at an embassy meeting.

Reps, who survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament last week, has called for the entire report to be publicized. She said she was confident that the newspaper cited her words out of context.