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5 Jan, 2009 07:31

Bronze Soldier protestors cleared of all charges

Four men charged with organising the April riots in Tallinn in 2007 have been cleared of all charges.

After the judge had announced the decision, made due to the lack of evidence, the audience applauded.

In April several thousand Russian protesters stormed the capital's streets following the removal of a Soviet war memorial and a decision to rebury the remains of 13 soldiers who fought the Nazis during World War Two.

While many Estonians considered the memorial a symbol of Soviet occupation, Russians viewed the Bronze Soldier as a tribute to heroes who helped liberate Estonia from the Nazis.

During the unrest there were acts of arson and widespread looting, while a 20-year-old Russian Dmitry Ganin was stabbed to death and more than 200 protesters were arrested. Four of them have been charged with organising the riots.

The Estonian authorities say damage from the unrest amounts to some $US 700 million.

While a war cemetery on the outskirts of Tallinn has become the new home of the Bronze soldier and the remains of 13 Soviet soldiers, many Russians still consider the removal a slap in the face.

“It's an insult against all Russians living in Estonia and all other people from around the world whose relatives fought against fascism,” said Maxim Reva, one of the four protestors facing the trial. “It's an insult against Russia. The monument was deliberately moved in order to boost nationalism in Estonia so that the government could stay in power in spite of the economic crisis.”

By the time the court reached a decision, Maxim Reva had already spent seven months in custody. His lawyer Vladimir Sadekov insisted the charges against him were unfounded.

“In my opinion, there was no element of crime in my clients’ actions. They neither organised nor provoked these mass riots,” he said.