Resident shaken by random identity check

  • 2007-07-11
  • By Joel Alas

DOCUMENTS, PLEASE: Tallinn residents and tourists have been warned to carry identification documents after a Swedish resident was stopped for a random check near Viru Keskus.

TALLINN - A Tallinn resident was left shaken after police detained and threatened to fine him for not carrying identification documents while walking through the city.
In behavior more expected in Russia than Estonia, police stopped Thomas Askenberg as he approached Viru Keskus shopping center at about 6 p.m. on July 4 and asked for his identity papers.
Askenberg, a 39 year old Swedish businessman who has lived in Tallinn for four years, told officers he was merely visiting the Kaubamaja department store and was not carrying an identity card or passport.
"The police had parked their car on the footpath, and they stopped me as I walked past,"  Askenberg told The Baltic Times.

"They said they had to check that I was allowed to be here. I didn't have my passport, and I don't remember my ID code."
Askenberg told the police his name and address, and asked them to check his details on their vehicle's computer system. Instead, he was driven to the central Tallinn police station where he was again asked for his papers and threatened with a fine.
"I told them, 'Please give me the fine, then I will go to my embassy and they can sort this out diplomatically.' I am a resident here, and I have a right to walk away," he said.

Eventually the police agreed to drive Askenburg home, where he was able to produce his passport.
He believes that his lack of Estonian language skills may have made the situation worse.
"Thank God that at the police station there was one person who could speak English. I think that was a big issue. I think the police became a bit arrogant because they didn't understand what I was saying."
He said his experience should serve as a warning to other residents and tourists.
"I think you should always have your ID with you because you never know. I have seen this happening in other countries, but never in Estonia."

Askenberg insisted he was not drunk or acting in a disorderly manner.
A police spokesman told The Baltic Times that everyone was required to carry identification when walking on the street to maintain public order.
However, the spokesman said police had no authority to fine or threaten to fine people who are found without documents.
He said there was no campaign to begin random identity checks in the wake of the Bronze Soldier riots.
"Police only ask for documents if a person is drunk or acting in a suspicious way," the spokesman said.
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