Estonia Acquits 4 of Plotting Riots in 2007

An Estonian court has acquitted four ethnic Russian men of plotting the 2007 riots in the capital Tallinn over the moving of a Soviet-era war memorial.

Mainly Russian-speaking protesters went on the rampage for three days in April 2007 after the government moved the World War II monument from central Tallinn to a cemetery.

Estonian prosecutors accused Mark Siryk, a member of the Kremlin-backed youth group Nashi, and Dmitry Klensky, Dmitry Linter and Maxim Reva of organizing mass unrest amid the protests.

The four had formed a group called Night Watch, whose members rallied near the monument to prevent it from being moved.

Tallinn's Harju District Court cleared the four men of wrongdoing on Jan. 5. The four, who had pleaded not guilty, had faced up to five years in prison if convicted of the charges.

"We expected anything and were ready for everything," Klensky said after the ruling, RIA-Novosti reported. "However, the verdict was a nice surprise for us."

The Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the acquittal. "The decision of the court once again confirmed the fairness of the public outrage triggered by the provocative venture by the Estonian authorities to desecrate the graves of the Soviet soldiers and transfer the monument in Tallinn," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

More than 1,000 people were detained and one man was stabbed to death during the riots, which shocked Estonia and highlighted differences between ethnic Estonians and the large Russian-speaking minority.

(MT, Reuters)