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17 Mar, 2008 15:58

Suspended sentence for Estonian memorial protester

An Estonian court has sentenced an ethnic Russian to an 18-month suspended sentence for his role in the riots following the relocation of a Soviet War Memorial in Tallinn in April last year. The man dubbed ‘the defender of the Bronze soldier’ was also fin

Thirty-five year old Yury Zhuravlyov was charged with involvement in the mass protests and with obstructing the police.

He's a member of the Night Watch movement set up to defend Tallinn's Bronze Soldier monument.

Zhuravlyov said he is persecuted for his political position and the sentence was unfair. He promised he will appeal the court's decision.

“The main part of the sentence I received – a year and a half in prison, then downgraded to a year and a half suspended sentence, for allegedly just breaking glass – is in actual fact a way of isolating the more active members of Estonia’s Russian population who are starting to wake up and fight for their rights as citizens, rights which have been suppressed for 17 years,” he said

He also insisted his conviction was based only on six seconds of video evidence.

In April 2007 the Estonian government relocated the Bronze Soldier, a monument to the Soviet troops who liberated Tallinn from the Nazis during World War II, to a military cemetery outside the city centre.

The decision sparked mass riots, during which dozens were injured, more than a thousand were detained and Dmitry Ganin, a 19-year-old Russian citizen, was killed.

One year on, almost all cases against those who took part in riots have closed – while the killers of the 20-year old have not yet been found.