News2019.11.08 11:10

Lithuania seeks EP's protection for its judges in January 13 case from Russian intimidation

Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS 2019.11.08 11:10

Lithuania's justice minister, prosecutor general and a judicial official are going to the European Parliament next week to ask for solidarity in protecting Lithuanian judges and prosecutors involved in the January 1991 massacre case from Russia's persecution.

The case relates to the attempted Soviet crackdown in Vilnius that killed fourteen civilians. Earlier this year, a Vilnius court handed sentences to over 60 former Soviet officials, some of them Russian nationals, provoking ire and intimidation from Moscow.

The European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs is scheduled to discuss the issue next Tuesday.

Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius has told BNS that he will go to Brussels together with Prosecutor General Evaldas Pašilis and Kaunas Regional Court President Nerijus Meilutis who represents Lithuania in the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ).

“I'll emphasize that Lithuanian judges and prosecutors are judges and prosecutors of the EU and must be protected from unlawful external influences while performing their constitutional duties,” the minister said.

Jankevičius said he was grateful to Lithuanian MEPs for raising this issue in their political groups.

He hopes that, after the discussions, the European Parliament will adopt a resolution on the issue.

Russia said in July 2018 that it had opened a criminal case against Lithuanian judges and prosecutors involved in the so-called January 13 case. Moscow accuses them of “unlawful prosecution of Russian citizens”.

Last March, the Vilnius Regional Court convicted former Soviet Defence Minister Dmitry Yazov and more than 60 other former Soviet officials and military officers of war crimes and crimes against humanity and handed them prison sentences in absentia.

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were wounded when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

The Soviet Union used military force in its attempt to remove the legitimate government of Lithuania which declared independence on March 11, 1990.

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