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2019.11.11 17:30

Lithuanian president signs 'spy swap' bill into law

BNS2019.11.11 17:30

Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has signed into law a bill detailing the president's right to pardon a convict involved in a spy swap deal, his office said on Monday.

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.

Nausėda believes that the amendment is "in line with [Lithuania's] national security interests" and that it is "sensible" to have in place "the proper legal mechanisms for protecting Lithuanian citizens". The president will make decisions on granting pardons after the Pardon Commission issues its recommendations.

The amendment allows 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.

However, 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.