Man behind bomb threats sent to prison

Joosep Värk
, reporter
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Harju County Court convicted Russian activist Vladislav Pälling (33) of making bomb threats against flights from Estonia to Germany in the name of Islamic extremists last July in agreement process and sent him to prison for a period of four months yesterday.

Pälling stood trial at noon yesterday, charged with aggravated breach of public order for which the maximum penalty is five years in prison.

The court ruled a few hours later, convicting Pälling in agreement process and handing him a two and a half year conditional sentence of which Pälling will have to spend four months behind bars. The rest of the punishment will not be enforced provided Pälling does not commit a new deliberate offense during a probation period of three and a half years.

Because Pälling has been in prison since early February, he will be released at the beginning of June. The judge asked Pälling whether he remembers the agreement he made at the start of the trial. Pälling confirmed he remembers the deal and has not changed his mind.

Prosecutor Triinu Olev read out the charges next that initially sought a longer punishment but asked for a punishment of 30 months for the perpetrator of which four would have to be spent in prison pursuant to agreement process.

Next the judge asked Pälling whether he understands the nature of the deal and would be able to describe it. Pälling said he does, and that he must not commit a new deliberate offense during the probation period.

The judge also asked Pälling whether he agrees to be sent to prison. “Of course,” the accused said. The reply prompted an ironic question from the judge whether Pälling would perhaps like to spend more than four months in jail. However, Pälling and his defender Urmas Simon felt it was more sensible to stick with the agreement already in place.

Simon explained after the sitting that Pälling's actions followed the fact he used to work at Tallinn Airport, and that he got ideas on how to hide his identity from foreign television series and movies. The defender added that Pälling has understood the severity of his act.

Prosecutor Triinu Olev also said that motives behind Pälling's behavior go back to when he was working airport security. More specifically the fact that his contract was terminated in early 2016.

Tallinn Airport and the Estonian Internal Security Service received calls from a man claiming to be a member of terrorist group Daesh at around 2 a.m. on July 25. The caller threatened to blow up a plane heading from Tallinn to Germany somewhere inside the next week. The police checked Tallinn Airport and all outgoing flights following the phone calls.

While makers of bomb threats are usually apprehended quickly in Estonia, it took the security police more than six months to track down Pälling. Identifying the caller proved difficult despite the fact Pälling placed the calls made in English using a local cell phone number while in Estonia.

Pälling had done everything he could to hide his identity. The call was placed from a high-density residential area and Pälling had changed his voice.

The internal security service went to considerable lengths to determine whether the threat was serious, and airport security was stiffened. The police were told to keep additional patrols close to the airport in the following days.

Tallinn resident Pälling was apprehended on February 2 this year and promptly confessed to the crime.

Photo: Photo: Erik Prozes / Postimees