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  1. Terrapinzflyer
    Estonia extradited two of its citizens suspected of smuggling hashish to Finnish authorities on May 6.

    Aimar Raud (39) and Neeme Laurits (39) were arrested on the request of Finnish police in Märjamaa on April 26. The two allegedly organized the smuggling of five-kilogram shipments of hashish on both February 7 and 15.

    Authorities became aware of the smuggling operation after an Estonian vehicle arriving at a Helsinki port on February 15 was searched. The driver of the vehicle is also an Estonian citizen and is in custody in Finland.

    The suspects could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison according to Finnish law if found guilty.

    Ott Tammik
    Published: 09.05.2011 13:21


  1. fehs
    Soundness of EU Arrest Warrant System Weighed after Miscarriage of Justice

    Published: 06.02.2012 09:50

    After a case of mistaken identity where an "average Joe" from the countryside served nine months in Finnish prison on charges of being the leader of a drug ring, officials are standing by the European arrest warrant system, calling the error a regrettable isolated incident.

    ETV's "Pealtnägija" (Eyewitness) investigative program reported that the man, 39-year-old Neeme Laurits, was arrested in April on a warrant from Finland. According to the complaint, Laurits was responsible for organizing the smuggling of five kilograms of hashish to Helsinki last February.

    The only link to Laurits, a truck driver who had not been to Finland in five years, was the fact that three of the drugs carriers had his number in their mobile phones - Laurits used to work for customer service for a busy vehicle inspection point.

    On April 26, Laurits was arrested at his home as he prepared to take his daughter to school. On June 16, he was sentenced in Finland to two years and four months of imprisonment.

    After his conviction was quashed, he returned to Estonia only three weeks ago, having lost his job and with his partner having moved on.

    Leading legal experts see the hands of local officials being tied in such cases, as standard practice is to give other countries' legal systems the benefit of the doubt. But some suggested Estonia could have made more substantial inquiries and issued a position.

    Head of Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee Marko Pomerants (IRL) said: "The presumption is that countries trust each other's law enforcement bodies."

    "We can't be absolutely certain that an analogous case would not happen again in Europe. But it's clear that it is a very exceptional case. For a law-abiding citizen, the story should always have a happy ending. As to how the nerves of parties to the case and their family members hold out, that is difficult to predict."

    His comments were seconded by deputy chairman of the committee, Kalle Laanet (Centre).

    "This is indeed an extremely regrettable case, which is hopefully very exceptional, not the rule," he told uudised.err.ee.

    Former Supreme Court chief justice and head of Parliament's Constitutional Committee Rait Maruste suggested that more substantive checks could take place before an individual is extradited. "Domestic oversight must be strong and substantive, not formal," he said.

    Norman Aas, Estonia's Prosecutor General, said the track record is good, with an average of 40-60 people extradited from Estonia per year, of which a few end up being acquitted. "Thus a law-abiding Estonian citizen can rest easy. Unfortunately no one ever has 100 percent protection from a false accusation."

    He said cooperation and rapid exchange of information makes it possible for Estonia to ask for additional data in questionable cases and set out its own position, which could lead to the foreign country withdrawing its arrest warrant.

    Kristopher Rikken
    (Source: ERR (Estonian Public Broadcasting) News)
  2. fehs
    Lawyer Lobbies for Safeguards Against Arbitrary Extradition[imgr=whte]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/picture.php?albumid=1997&pictureid=16445[/imgr]

    Published: 01.03.2012 11:48

    The case of the man from Märjamaa falsely jailed in Finland as a supposed drug kingpin is not the only such case, says a prominent lawyer, arguing that Estonia is too earnest and uncritical about exercising European arrest warrants.

    The revelation that truck driver Neeme Laurits had been speedily extradited to Finland to face drug smuggling charges - despite a solid alibi and lack of convincing evidence - set off a bit of a scramble among Estonian officials earlier this year. Several said in effect that it would be absurd for an Estonian judge in the pretrial phase to say that they doubted the word of a colleague in a foreign country, and that not much could be done for the accused before extradition.

    Lawyer Kaido Pihlakas (pictured) says this is bosh and that the individual, Neeme Laurits, should have been subjected to a full examination by Estonian investigators. "Yes, I'm sticking staunchly to that position. Maybe there are others who say it isn't necessary, that it's based on mutual professional trust between judges and officials."

    "The problem here is that it is all based on the great mutual trust that member states' justice officials have," Pihlakas went on. "I think that justice is not served in this manner. I will say with confidence that rubber-stamping is going on."

    Pihlakas says the European Council's framework decision says with regard to arrest warrants that the suspect's own country's authorities should check whether the charges hold water. Back in 2007, Heta, a law office in which Pihlakas is a partner, petitioned Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee to add a relevant clause to national legislation stating that defendants must get an interrogation at home.

    Heta's initiative stemmed from two cases it handled that resembled that of the Märjamaa man.

    One man was jailed in Norway for a drugs crime for 210 days, another was wrongly imprisoned in Italy for three months. Pihlakas says that in the Italian case, the evidence was gossamer-thin, much as it was in the Laurits case: the man happened to be on the same bus as the actual criminals. Five years later, he has yet to receive compensation.

    Pihlakas says he plans to lobby Parliament hard for two changes - that Estonia should pay compensation to citizens extradited who are then acquitted; and that to avoid the problem in the first place, subject the accused to exhaustive interviews before being shipped abroad.

    Kristopher Rikken
    (Source: ERR (Estonian Public Broadcasting) News)
  3. fehs
    Interesting story. Wonder how's life with this Aimar Raud fellow. Hadn't even heard about this case before, even though I normally aggressively skim through all the drug-related news articles related to Finland. It's such a small country that you'll never know when you're going to bump into a name you actually recognize.
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