Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Latvia: U.S. Leaders Call For Justice In Latvia Legal Cases

SOURCE Thomas Canepa

U.S. leaders called for a fair and balanced justice system in Latvia in cases pending against two prominent citizens – Inara Vilkaste and her husband Vladimir Vashkevich.

In addition, human rights attorney Thomas Canepa of Chicago called for the Latvian government to end prosecutions against the couple before Latvian government officials arrive in Chicago for the NATO Summit on May 20-21.

Latvia is asking NATO for help at the summit to further authorize NATO air policing in Baltic countries.

The high-profile legal case in Latvia has caused human rights violations against Vilkaste and Vashkevich, since more than 100 legal proceedings have been launched against them without any serious evidence.

"Before NATO spends millions of dollars and precious resources protecting Latvia, the government must end the injustice in the Vilkaste and Vashkevich cases and dismiss all of these cases," said Canepa, a Chicago attorney who successfully represented Dr. Sanjar Umarov, a Memphis physicist who was tortured and poisoned in Uzbekistan during a politically motivated incarceration.

Dr. Umarov also said human rights must be protected, "In former Soviet Union states such as Latvia, security services have been used to persecute political enemies and violate human rights," said Umarov, who spent four-and-a-half years in an Uzbekistan prison.

The Vilkaste and Vashkevich cases have gained international attention with the formation of the Justice for Inara Committee (www.justiceforinara.eu), which is headed by Walter Schwimmer, former Secretary General for the Council of Europe.

A Chicago-area congressman has weighed in on the cases, calling for justice and human rights.

Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois, sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her and the U.S. Department of State to provide an update on the legal cases to see if human rights were violated.

In December 2005, Inara Vilkaste concluded the largest real estate deal in the history of Latvia at the time. Immediately after that she became an object of criminal actions, extortion, arson, a murder attempt and illegal searches on the property owned by Mrs. Vilkaste ensued.

Soon after that a media campaign unfolded against Inara Vilkaste and her husband Vladimir Vashkevich as a result of which both of them were close to a psychological breakdown. Looking for a lever to be used against Mr. Vashkevich, a former top government official in Latvia, officials in the Latvian security services started expressing criminal interest toward Inara Vilkaste and their children.

From 2006 to 2012, Mrs. Vilkaste has been forced to take part in 50 criminal and about 100 civil proceedings, initiated in the Republic of Latvia. From 2006 to 2012, more than 300 court hearings were held and Inara Vilkaste was summoned to law enforcement agencies 125 times as a witness.

In the same period a "black PR" campaign hit television, internet publications and other sources of Latvian mass media, resulting in almost 3,000 stories of negative content, discrediting and humiliating Inara Vilkaste

At the same time husband of Inara Vilkaste, Mr. Vladimir Vashkevich, a high ranking state official became a target of both criminal actions (attempted murder resulting in severe bodily injuries, burning of his car etc), and prosecution by special services with two criminal cases initiated against him.

In one case, the trial of the first instance has sentenced him for two years of imprisonment for alleged error in his income declaration, with the appeal pending at this time.

The other case was launched in January 2011, and is at the trial stage right now. Interestingly, despite numerous requests submitted by Mr. Vashkevich and his defense, the presiding judge refused to grant Mr. Vashkevich a right to a public hearing, reviewing the case "behind the closed doors."

Given the fact that previously Mr. Vashkevich had to struggle for several months in order to get the prosecution evidence disclosed to him, the denial of the very basic element of the right to a fair trial - public hearing, is especially evident as the current trial is a part of the harassment campaign against Mrs. Vilkaste and Mr. Vashkevich.