The attention of the European public is drawn to Lithuania, where the well-known social and political figure Algirdas Paleckis is in the dock. On October 22nd, the Kaunas District Court granted the request of the Prosecutor’s Office, extending the political prisoner’s measure of restraint in the form of detention for another two months. While in other former Soviet Baltic republics ethnic Russian human rights defenders are subjected to similar repression (last week FLB interviewed Latvian professor Aleksandr Gaponenko), in Lithuania for the first time a representative of the titular nation who dared to question the foundations of Lithuanian statehood was judged.
Paleckis was arrested a year ago, and his friends and like-minded people didn’t know about his detention for more than a month. The man simply disappeared (then it turned out that the father of the politician, who was informed about the arrest, took out a gagging order). Algirdas is accused under the article “Espionage” in favour of Russia. The penalty is up to 15 years of imprisonment. The details of “espionage” are not reported by the Lithuanian state security bodies, which cite secrecy. At the same time, the prosecutor’s documents say that Paleckis collected some “public information”, i.e., information that does not possess the stamp of secrecy (Paleckis, who has been earning money from journalism in recent years, has no definition of access to military, industrial, and other secrets).
Today, Lithuanian like-minded people published fresh photos of the political prisoner on social networks. They’re shocking. A year later, from a blooming man (in May 2019 Algirdas turned only 48 years old), he turned into a grey old man with sunken cheeks.
Comparisons with a prisoner of fascist camps come to mind inadvertently. Even the researcher of the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences Aleksandr Dukov, head of the Historical Memory Foundation, couldn’t put up with it. The historian wrote on Facebook: “Bitches, they really will kill him in prison.”
Algirdas Paleckis is not new to Lithuanian politics. He is in many ways a symbolic figure in the recent history of Baltic democracies, after assessing which you understand Lithuania’s unbridled geopolitical fate. Algirdas’ grandfather – Justas Paleckis – chaired the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, his father is a successful diplomat both in Soviet times (the top of his career – deputy head of the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR) and in the times of “Lithuanian independence”. From 2004 to 2014 Paleckis Sr. was consistently elected a member of the European Parliament. Algirdas, born in Bern, Switzerland in 1971, was destined to follow in his father’s footsteps. Paleckis graduated from Vilnius University, studied in Paris with a degree in International Relations, then worked in the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry, reaching the head of the Western Europe Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001.
Grandfather of Algirdas Paleckis (centre) with First Secretary of the Communist Party of Lithuania Antanas Sniečkus (right)
And then Paleckis became a politician, leading the Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania, a party that is a bone in the throat of the Lithuanian “young Democrats”, because it advocates socialist rather than capitalist principles of the work of the state. A respectable politician with good potential to become a typical Lithuanian transatlantist, immediately put a cross on his career. Moreover, the father, a prominent Euro-deputy from the ruling elite, actually disavowed his son.
In 2011 the first thunder broke – Algirdas Paleckis was charged for “denying the aggression of the USSR”. The reason for the criminal case was the phrase “They opened fire at their own” about the events of January 13th 1991 (when unknown snipers at the Vilnius TV tower, in the Ukrainian maidan scenario, killed protesting Lithuanian, and blamed the Soviet special unit “Alfa” for everything), which the politician said in one of the TV shows. This was the first trial in Lithuania under the article “Denial of aggression of the USSR against Lithuania”. The court imposed a fine of €3,000 on Paleckis, refusing to deprive the politician of his liberty. Eight years later, Lithuania became involved in repression.
“I didn’t sell anything, I think smart people understand what’s going on here. I didn’t do anything that was against the law. Health? It’s tolerable. Finally, I was allowed (a family meeting) once a month,” said the prisoner in the court to his brothers-in–arms, repeating that “smart people understand what is happening”.
More than a dozen like-minded people came to Kaunas to support the human rights defender. Each of them, without exaggeration, in danger of freedom. Here’s just an example. Today, a rally in support of Algirdas Paleckis was held at the Kaunas District Court, who was held by the current chairman of the Socialist People’s Front Giedrius Grabauskas. And immediately, the police searched Grabauskas’ apartment!
Picket at the court in support of Paleckis. In the red circle – the leader of the Socialist People’s Front Grabauskas, who was searched.
“After the picket and the court’s hearing, police officers in two minibuses searched the house of the picket organiser Giedrius Grabauskas, suspecting a violation of the law on disseminating information about the participation of current ‘heroes’ in the Holocaust in Lithuania,” said the deputy of the Klaipeda Duma Vjatsjeslav Titov. “Heroes” are fascist remnants, so-called “forest brothers“, who after the end of the Great Patriotic War operated in Lithuanian forests, killing Red Army soldiers, police, including of Lithuanian origin, as well as civilians. Titov himself has already been convicted because he publicly opposed the glorification of Lithuanian accomplices of the Nazis (the court sentenced our compatriot to an impressive fine – €12,000).
On the eve of the court hearing, in the capitals of the former republics of the USSR in the European space – Minsk, Riga, Tallinn, and Chisinau – pickets took place near the walls of Lithuanian diplomatic missions in support of Paleckis. An action also took place in Kaliningrad. That’s all. As human rights defender Mr Gaponenko from Riga said in an interview with FLB, “Moscow is not in a hurry to defend the rights of Russians in Europe”, and the European Union is not in a hurry to react because it “specialises in genocide”. That’s when Russians started to be killed, then, they say, they’ll start to care. Looking at pictures of the exhausted Algirdas, you realise that there isn’t long to wait.
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