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2019.06.07 11:12

Vilnius calls for EU 'cooperation' after Russia opens case against Lithuanian judges

BNS2019.06.07 11:12

In Luxembourg, Lithuania's Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevičius has raised the issue of Russia's actions against Lithuanian judges, after Russia opened a criminal case against four Lithuanian judges.

In April, the Russian Investigative Committee opened a criminal case investigating four Lithuanian judges, who convicted former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov and former Soviet Army members in the January 13, 1991 case.

"Russia's actions are incompatible with the status of the rule of law and should be condemned. This way preconditions are created to persecute judges of an independent state," Jankevičius said in a statement, after attending a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers in Luxembourg.

"We view such behavior of the Russian Federation as unlawful attempts to put direct pressure on Lithuanian courts," the justice minister added.

The case against Judges Aiva Survilienė, Virginija Pakalnytė-Tamošiūnaitė and Artūras Šumskas of the Vilnius Regional Court and Ainora Kornelija Macevičienė, the chairwoman of the judicial panel who retired after reading out the verdict, was opened for "pronouncing a knowingly unlawful sentence".

Jankevičius paid attention to the fact that Russia might misuse the Interpol system and bilateral cooperation agreements, seeking arrest, detention and extradition of Lithuanian officials subject to politically-motivated persecution.

"We seek to ensure that countries closely cooperate with Lithuanian institutions if Russia requested under a legal assistance agreement to find, question or detain Lithuanian judges and prosecutors," the minister said.

In March, the Vilnius Regional Court convicted a total of 67 Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian citizens of war crimes and crimes against humanity but the verdicts since then have been appealed by both the prosecutors and part of the convicts.

The Justice Minister said active legal cooperation with Russia was sought as part of this case and 289 legal assistance requests ere sent but only five of them were partly executed.

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 used military force to topple Lithuania's legitimate government after Lithuanian declared its independence from the Soviet Union on March 11, 1990.