Political persecutions in a EU member country

By Oksana Chelysheva

On May 23rd a trial on Vladimir Linderman began in Riga. It is one of the numerous cases which the courts of Latvia are busy with this year.

Vladimir Linderman is a Latvian publicist, poet and human rights political activist known for his long-term struggle for the rights of the Russian language minority of Latvia. One may say that there is no news in this news. If one counts all attempts to put Vladimir Linderman behind bars, there will be a list of some thirteen criminal cases.

At that, Vladimir Linderman has never been found guilty of any crime which the law enforcement agencies of Latvia tried to accuse him for. In three cases Vladimir Linderman was fully acquitted, also by the upper court of Latvia. The others were closed either by investigators themselves or Prosecutor’s office as they failed to establish any signs of any crime committed. Or rather they did not manage to prove what they desired to prove.

This year alll feels tougher. The war in Ukraine has opened up various opportunities to those who feel like silencing their critics. Vladimir Linderman is not an exception. Even more so. In addition to his previous record of withstanding a broad spectrum of accusations in court, he is now a defendant in not just one but two parallel criminal cases.

Firstly, he is one of the defendants in the trial which involves sixteen journalists and media workers accused of violating the regime of the EU sanctions by contributing to Russian news portals Sputnik and Baltnews, parts of the Rossiya Segodnya state news agency. Its general director Dmitry Kisilyov is under personal EU sanctions.

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The overwhelming majority of the targeted people refuse to admit to any crime. Initially, there was one case against all the sixteen people but the perspective of having a crowd of well-known journalists on the same bench in a court room did not look attractive. The case was, therefore, split into separate cases so that the media picture of the trial be not so pathetic.

The court sessions on a number of journalists, including Ludmila Pribylskaya and Vladimir Dorofeev, have already started. The first court session on Vladimir Linderman with regard to these charges is to take place on June 21st.

The trial on Vladimir Lindernan which started on May 23rd is yet another challenge to his sharp and witty criticism of quite many aspects of the Latvian politics, especially with regard to the positions of the Russian-speaking Latvian minority.

This criminal case likewise the majority of previous ones, was instituted by the security service of Latvia. He is charged with publishing texts ”glorifying Russia and her might” as well as ”justifying the war of agression against Ukraine and formenting ethnic hatred”. In June last year Linderman was arrested. He was remanded in custody during the first four months. Then he was released on 6000-euro bail which was covered by people in Latvia.

Vladimir Linderman refuses to admit to any crime committed insisting that he has not done anything different from those Western thinkers and politicians who are calling for political solutions to the war in Ukraine.

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