Two Estonian men deny supporting Islamic terrorism in court

Two Estonian men whose trial on charges of supporting Islamic terrorism began in a Tallinn court on Monday pleaded not guilty.

After the summary of charges was read out both Ramil Khalilov, 25, and Roman Manko, 30, said they understood the charges but pleaded not guilty to financing and supporting crimes of terrorism. The men who were detained by the Internal Security Service (ISS) in April are Estonia-born citizens of Russia.

According to the charges the men supported the activity of Ivan Sazanakov, a former resident of Estonia who in 2013 left for Syria to fight in the ranks of the terrorist organization IS.

From 2013 onwards Khalilov more than once asked his acquaintances for money for Sazanakov, knowing that the latter could use it for terrorist crimes, the prosecution said. He gave Sazanakov in Syria at least 500 euros in cash in October 2013 and in 2014 asked Manko on Sazanakov's behalf to go to Latvia and raise funds to support the "holy war."

According to the statement of charges Manko too was aware of Sazanakov's membership in a terrorist group and supported and funded it. He gave Khalilov 400 euros in cash for forwarding to Sazanakov in the fall of 2013 and another 200 euros later on. In the second half of that year he attempted to transfer money to Sazanakov in Syria through Western Union but the transfer was not finalized for reasons independent of his will.

Pre-trial investigation established that Manko visited Riga in February 2014 and solicited funds to support Sazanakov.

«Considering how dangerous terrorism is, Estonia must practice zero tolerance for supporting and financing it. The information collected in pre-trial investigation gives us enough grounds to accuse the men of knowing and deliberate supporting of terrorism,» said the prosecutor in charge of the case, Laura Vaik.