TALLINN (Reuters) - Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid said on Tuesday she had relieved a minister from the far-right party EKRE of his duties, just a day after the new government was sworn in.
The president said she removed the IT and foreign trade minister, Marti Kuusik, at the request of the prime minister and gave no more details of the reasons.
But the move came after police said they were investigating Kuusik following an Ekspress Group news report linking him to domestic violence. He has denied any wrongdoing.
“In addition to a horrible media attack against me the prosecutor’s office decided to start a criminal investigation. In this situation I cannot work as a minister. Also the rest of the government cannot work normally,” he said in a statement on Tuesday evening.
Prime Minister Juri Ratas echoed his comments.
“In the current situation, the government could not really start its work and fulfil its programme. Hence foreign trade and IT minister Marti Kuusik requested to leave his duties today,” Ratas said in a statement.
Kuusik was one of five ministers of EKRE, whose anti-immigrant message helped the party more than double its support in a March election, winning broad support in poorer rural areas.
EKRE is the second largest partner in Estonia’s new government which agreed in April on the 36-page coalition plan that includes some of the party’s strict immigration policies and pledges that Estonia will not take in any refugees as part of a European Union-wide quota system.
Reporting by Tarmo Virki; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne