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Search of Sputnik Estonia Office Was Illegal, Local Court Rules

Samizdat – 13.07.2022

Sputnik International’s Estonia-based sister portal Sputnik Meedia was forced to shut down in March amid unprecedented pressure from Estonian authorities and banks, and a wave of personal threats against employees. But the outlet’s persecution by local authorities goes all the way back to 2019.

An Estonian court has ruled authorities’ April search of the former editorial office of Sputnik Meedia and former Sputnik Meedia editor-in-chief Elena Cherysheva’s home illegal, Cherysheva has informed Sputnik.

Cherysheva, who was detained on April 6 for alleged “crimes against peace” and purported “violations of international sanctions,” had her house searched. Her husband was taken to the former office of Sputnik Meedia, and it too was searched. After 16 hours of rummaging, authorities sent Cherysheva to a detention center, but was later released on bail. The ex-Sputnik Meedia employee said the searches were authorized by Estonian State Prosecutor’s Office lead prosecutor Taavi Pern.

“On April 8, the Prosecutor’s Office sent a search warrant and additional documents to the preliminary investigation judge in Harju County Court requesting that the search warrant be recognized as admissible and justified. The judge did not do so. As the court clarified, a person whose activities are related to the processing of information for journalistic purposes can be searched only on the basis of a ruling by a preliminary investigation judge or a court decision,” Cherysheva explained.

She added that the Prosecutor’s Office filed a complaint with the Tallinn District Court challenging the Harju County Court’s decision, but the higher court upheld the ruling.
Cherysheva further revealed the Harju County Court had also ruled in her favor to return her part of the personal property which authorities seized in April, after the State Prosecutor’s Office refused to do so.

“In its decision, the Harju County Court emphasized that given the decision of the Tallinn District Court of May 10 on the groundlessness and illegality of the search, it is not clear to the court on what basis the investigator continues to withhold funds found and seized during the search,” she said.

Sputnik’s Estonian sister agency has been hounded by the Baltic country’s authorities for years. Sputnik Meedia itself was created in early 2020 by former employees of Sputnik Estonia, which was forced to shutter its doors amid threats of criminal charges against its journalists by police, and after Estonian banks suspended Sputnik-related accounts in late 2019.

Sputnik Meedia was forced to terminate its operations in early March of this year, with banks freezing salaries and closing the media outlet’s accounts amid alleged suspicions of “money laundering, terrorist financing and the illegal sale of alcohol.” On top of that, the agency’s editor-in-chief and staff received regular threats against their life and safety.

July 13, 2022 - Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia |

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