The Supreme Court has overruled an appeal from the lawyer of one of the drivers in last June's fatal collision in Tallinn's Lasnamäe district which killed two people.
The court dismissed an appeal from Vjatšeslav Kalašnikov's laywer, though it has altered earlier circuit court assessments of the chain of cause and effect which led to the crash, in the early evening of June 20 this year.
The ruling concerns the interpretation of what the two men are charged with as originally directed by the prosecutor's office. The criminal trial itself will be early next year.
Supreme Court: Suspect did not aid and abet as such
The Supreme Court's Criminal Law Chamber said its legal opinion was that only joint principal offenders and participants in an intentional crime, including those involved in aiding and abetting, can be penalized as such.
The issue hangs on the intent of Kalašnikov, who had been involved in a high-speed race with the driver who caused the deaths, Isa Khalilov.
The court found that while Kalašnikov's actions did not directly cause the serious consequences in and of themselves, he still has culpability, including in serious traffic violations and causing death and serious injury due to negligence.
As such, Kalašnikov, 29 can be considered to have liability as an independent actor or secondary perpetrator of a serious crime, so should not be freed, though his responsibility is a notch below Khalilov's.
Had Kalašnikov not accompanied Khalilov, 20, the younger of the two, with noone to egg the latter on, there would less likely have been vehicles traveling at such speeds on Laagna tee that evening in June, and thus no accident of that proportion.
Pair involved in high-speed race
Khalilov was reportedly in the following car, and thus Kalašnikov's speed and driving style influenced him in his own efforts to keep up, and were a major factor in the outcome.
Khalilov rear-ended a car while he was trying to race Kalašnikov.
The Supreme Court found that there was reasonable suspicion of a criminal offense over Kalašnikov, meaning his arrest warrant remains in force.
Both men were detained following the collision; the prosecutor sought a status of joint principal offender for Kalašnikov; which Harju County Court agreed with; the second-tier Tallinn Circuit Court subsequently, found that Kalašnikov's actions had constituted aiding and abetting a crime – the viewpoint that the Supreme Court has pared down.
The pair had been racing luxury performance cars – Khalilov's was a BMW X5 model –at approximately 200 km/h on a stretch of Laagna tee with an 70 km/h speed limit, when Khalilov struck the first vehicle, which in turn hit two more. Two died, including an elderly woman bystander who had been waiting at a nearby bus stop, who was killed at the scene. The driver of another car involved in the collision died a day later in hospital. Five were injured, at least one of them seriously.
A pet dog traveling in one of the vehicles was also seriously injured, with a charity driver later raising over €30,000 towards the animal's treatment.
Trial starts in February
Some media reports at the time also portrayed Khalilov - an ethnic Azerbaijani citizen of the Russian Federation - as exemplifying the Azerbaijani community in Estonia as a whole as being involved in organized crime and other misdeeds, something which drew rebuke from community representatives. Khalilov, who grew up in Tallinn, had a traffic violations record and reportedly did not hold a valid driver's license at the time of the crash.
Laagna tee had the previous summer been a filming location for the 2020 thriller "Tenet", with scenes including a car chase, though the movie had not yet been placed on general release when the June 20 2020 accident happened.
The North District Prosecutor's Office charged the men under the relevant section of the penal code in October; the trial will start next February, Harju County Court has ruled.
The two men are likely to remain in custody until then.
Editor: Andrew Whyte