Mihhail Kõlvart, one of Tallinn's deputy mayors, has won the first round of a court battle over a blogger who made unfounded claims that defamed the official's character.
The blogger, Jevgeni Krištafovitš, will have to publish a retraction in Estonian and Russian within 15 days of the court decision coming into force, Harju County Court ruled today.
In the blog entries and comments published on April 14-15, Krištafovitš had claimed that Kõlvart was involved in organized crime. The court ruled that Krištafovitš will also have to retract claims that Kõlvart is a contact for the Russian Embassy. Scurrilous or otherwise, the latter is a theme that has featured extensively in the media, with several tabloids having published photos of guests invited to Kõlvart's 35th birthday party.
Furthermore, in its yearbook published April 2012, the Internal Security Service mentioned Kõlvart in connection with the Russian Embassy contact. Kõlvart was unable to halt publication of the yearbook, but sued the agency for defamation. He lost that case in Tallinn Administrative Court in March 2013.
Krištafovitš, who told uudised.err.ee he plans to appeal, said he was "surprised" Harju County Court found that the Russian Embassy handler claim was libelous.
"I find the court's reasoning odd," he said, adding that it was generally accepted that Kõlvart had close contacts at the embassy, which, he said, was the logical equivalent of being a contact for the embassy.
Kõlvart also provided comment on the case to uudised.err.ee, saying "One of the values of a democratic society is unconditionally free speech. But no freedom can be violated at the expense of other people's rights. That includes the right to objective information and a good reputation."