Police arrest election coalition members after bomb threat

Pommiähvardus Tartus. PHOTO: Jürgen Puistaja / Kanal 2

On Tuesday, the police detained two 36-year-old men suspected of making a bomb threat directed at ERR’s Tartu studio on October 10. The men were arrested following an application from the Southern District Prosecutor’s Office today and yesterday.

The Alarm Center received a call at around quarter to nine on the evening of October 10, saying a bomb would go off in the Tartu studio of public broadcaster ERR at 21.15. The time was symbolic: it was in the middle of the Tartu mayoral candidates debate. Many citizens of Tartu immediately felt the threat was somehow connected to local elections. More so, as one election coalition – Tartu with a Heart – failed to register its candidate for the debate in time.

TRT03: VALIMISLIIT SÜDAMEGA TARTU : TARTU, EESTI, 05SEP17 - Täna lõpeb kohalike omavalitsuste valimiste kandidaatide registreerimiseks esitamine.Nimekirja esitab valimisliit "Südamega Tartu".Pildil Tartu linnavalitsuse õigusteenistuse juhataja Anneli Apuhtin ja linnasekretär Jüri Mölder (seljaga) ning valimisliidu esindajad Meelis Kaldalu (punases) ja Reio Laurits. PHOTO: MARGUS ANSU/PM/SCANPIX BALTICS

Tartu county court secretary relayed a request from the leading figure of election coalition Tartu with a Heart, Meelis Kaldalu, to Tartu Postimees that he is one of the arrested men today. Information available to the paper suggests the election coalition’s activist Reio Laurits was the other man arrested. Laurits is known for his pretentious wish to become the president of the Estonian Olympic Committee in 2016. Kaldalu first became more widely known when he refused to shake the hand of First Lady Evelin Ilves during the 2013 Anniversary of the Republic reception. The court initially arrested Kaldalu for a period of two months.

The Southern Prefecture’s special units and the South Estonia bomb squad reacted to the bomb threat immediately by cordoning off the studio at Riia 24 and stopping traffic in the vicinity. The building was thoroughly checked, and no explosive device was found. The studio was empty at the time the treat was made.

District Prosecutor Marge Püss said the men are suspected of group aggravated breach of public order. “Based on evidence collected, we have reason to tie both men to purchasing the phone used to make the threat and issuing the threat itself,” Püss said. “As no explosive device was found, the case is one of aggravated breach of public order that disrupted the freedom of movement, feelings of security, and legal peace of people living, moving through, or working in the area. A traffic stoppage was also caused on Riia street that is one of Tartu’s busiest,” the prosecutor added.

Püss said that bomb threats are always treated with the utmost seriousness. “Every threat could turn out to be genuine, which is why all relevant law enforcement organs will always react to them. The first priority is to make sure there is no danger to human life. Next, we need to find the issuer of the threat to make sure danger to human life and security will not arise,” Püss said. The prosecutor said the suspects’ arrest was sought to prevent future crimes and evasion of proceedings.

Tartu Police Chief Üllar Sõmera said that the police usually find those responsible for bomb threats sooner or later. “When the police react to such a resource-intensive call as a bomb threat, other people who might need help in the area must wait longer or go without police assistance as a result. Therefore, a bomb threat is a deeply irresponsible act regarding all people who are truly in need of urgent assistance,” the major said.

The maximum sentence for aggravated breach of public order is five years. The men were initially arrested for a period of two months. Neither have past criminal punishments.

Pretrial proceedings are conducted by the Southern Prefecture under the direction of the Southern District Prosecutor’s Office.