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2019.11.07 12:03

Lithuanian parliament passes spy swap bill

BNS2019.11.07 12:03

The Lithuanian parliament has adopted an amendment to the Criminal Code that details the president's right to pardon a convict involved in a spy swap deal.

The amendment was passed on Thursday in a vote of 76 to two with eight abstentions and will take effect after it is signed into law by President Gitanas Nausėda.

Nausėda, who is visiting Italy on Thursday and Friday, plans to sign the amendment into law next Monday, and the Pardon Commission is scheduled to hold a meeting on Wednesday, the president's spokesman confirmed to BNS.

Sources have told BNS that the amendment, which was tabled by the chairman of the Seimas Committee on National Security and Defence (NSGK) last month, is related to a planned swap of convicts involving Lithuania, Russia and Norway.

The amendment would allow using a presidential pardon if Lithuania reaches an agreement with a foreign country on the return of a Lithuanian citizen persecuted or convicted in that country while acting in Lithuania's national security interests.

The original version of the bill allowed granting a pardon only to a person convicted of espionage, but that provision was removed during parliamentary debates.

Some lawyers and politicians believe that the amendment is redundant, because the existing legislation allows the president to release any convicted persons from serving their sentence.

Critics say that, by using the new amendment, Lithuania would effectively admit that its citizen carried out espionage activities.

According to information available to BNS, the Lithuanian State Defence Council, chaired by Nausėda, approved a spy swap deal with Russia in October.

Under the deal, Lithuania is to transfer Nikolai Filipchenko, a Russian Federal Security Service agent convicted two years ago, in exchange for Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamošaitis, two Lithuanian citizens convicted in Russia in 2016.

The swap deal also includes a Norwegian citizen sentenced in Russia and another Russian citizen, according to the sources.

In late October, Moscow's clemency commission recommended pardoning Frode Berg, a Norwegian national sentenced in Russia to 14 years in prison for spying.