Man to threaten Estonia's chief rabbi taken into custody for 48 hours

Footage captured by Tallinn Municipal Police Department video of the verbal attack.
Footage captured by Tallinn Municipal Police Department video of the verbal attack. Source: Tallinn Municipal Police Department

Police in Estonia have taken a man who on Saturday threatened Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot into custody for 48 hours and are searching his home.

"Police officers identified the insulter as a 27-year-old man whom we arrested at a shopping centre in Central Tallinn yesterday," Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) North Prefecture official Jelena Mirošnitšenko told ERR on Monday. "He is currently in custody for 48 hours in connection with a misdemeanour procedure, and the man confessed to his deed."

She added that police officers are in the process of checking the man's background as well as gathering evidence from his home.

Kaido Saarniit, head of the North Prefecture's Central Tallinn Police Department, told ERR on Sunday that the police had launched an investigation into the alleged verbal attack on Estonian Chief Rabbi Shmuel Kot on the grounds of the paragraph of the Penal Code addressing the incitement of hatred.

Suspect shouts at officer, chief rabbi

According to Tallinn Municipal Police Department (Mupo) spokesperson Meeli Hunt, the incident in question took place by a Mupo van parked near the Paberi tram stop, where a Mupo ticket patrol was issuing a fine to a young man caught riding public transport without a valid ticket. The individual was escorted off the tram, following standard procedure, and the Mupo began processing his fine when Mr Kot and his children walked past in order to cross the street.

Catching sight of the chief rabbi, the suspect, who had already shouted expletives at the Mupo officer, aggressively shouted, "What are you staring at, Jew? You're going into the oven," among other comments.

Jewish community leader: Comments were targeted

"I don't believe that there is any deeper background here," Alla Jakobson, chairwoman of the Jewish Community of Estonia, told daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian). "But the chief rabbi is dressed very conspicuously differently, and it's plain to see that this is someone of a Jewish background, and so the insult was knowingly addressed at him specifically."

Ms Jakobson added that she had spoken with a number of people and that to her knowledge, nothing like this had ever happened before.

She also highlighted that Jews and Estonians have in common that both peoples have suffered a great deal during their respective histories, and so they should respect one another.

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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