On the 8th of November we released Binding the Guardian, a study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly, which provides a critical analysis of the European Commission’s annual rule of law reports (2020 & 2021). See press release here: https://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Press-release-Binding-the-Guardian-08-11-2021.pdf
(The following is a brief explainer and update on the case of Algirdas Paleckis, a Lithuanian journalist currently subject to prosecution on "espionage" charges. The case is an example - along with that of Julian Assange - of how espionage law is being misused in Europe and further abroad to stifle dissent, and how the space for challenging Europe's foreign policy orthodoxy is shrinking.
Photos from my recent visit to Lithuania along with MEPs Mick Wallace and Tatjana Ždanoka to support Paleckis can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/judejimas.ausra/photos/pcb.139925711712862/139906478381452 )
Algirdas Paleckis (50) is a Lithuanian journalist and politician who was arrested on charges of “espionage for Russia” in 2018. He spent 17 months in the solitary confinement cell before any trial started and is under house arrest since 2020.
In July this year the district court sentenced him to 6 years in prison. A. Paleckis appealed. The district court completely ignored the lack of evidence (see below) and just copy-pasted into its verdict the final speech of the prosecutor. Many Lithuanian courts are known for their dependency on the Government, so A. Paleckis risks spending another 6 years in jail, as the final ruling of the Appeal court approaches (in January or February next year).
The journalist is accused of “gathering and passing to Russia” information about Lithuanian judges who investigated the events of 1991 in Vilnius, as Soviets troops clashed with civilians. However, no proof of it was presented in the court – no documents, or files, or any other type of information allegedly “gathered” by A. Paleckis. Moreover, no person has been identified as a foreign agent who “gave instructions” to him, so no link to foreign services was established.
The prosecutor claims that A. Paleckis contacted with “unidentified” foreign agent, but the whole accusation is based on the testimony of a witness who is a convicted pedophile (Deimantas Bertauskas). It is also based on the secret memos of Lithuanian secret services. Part of the court sittings were also held secret, although the prosecutor admitted that there are no state secrets in A. Paleckis case.
As a journalist and politician, A. Paleckis has been a long-time critic of the Government. His “guilt” was to make his journalistic investigation into the events of 1991 in Vilnius. The authorities feel quite uneasy about this topic, as they already fined him for such investigation in 2012. During its last sitting (on the 16th of November 2021 in Vilnius) Lithuania’s Court of Appeal decided:
- to reject A. Paleckis’ request to make the psychological expertise of the sole witness in the case who is a convicted pedophile (D. Bertauskas) and on whose testimony the whole case is based. This person was acquitted as a reward for his “testimony”. A parallel exist here with J. Assange case, where a pedophile gave testimony against J. Assange.
- to reject A. Paleckis’ request to interrogate Mr Butkevicius (a high-ranking official during the events of 1991).
- to approve A. Paleckis request and ask the State Security Department to present to the court the protocols of secrete interrogations of the mentioned witness. These protocols are still secrete, which is a juridical nonsense because accusation against A. Paleckis are based on them.
The next court sitting is due on 12th of January 2022. If the court will not receive the mentioned secret protocols of secret interrogations (which is quite likely), then final speeches will be pronounced, and the court will convene for a verdict at some point in January or February 2022. The verdict will come into force immediately.
I'm republishing here the important response from Jo Murphy Lawless of the Elephant Collective to the inquest verdict of "medical misadventure" for Nayyab Tariq.
We fought long and hard in the Dáil to have the new coroner's bill implemented and to have mandatory inquests in cases of maternal death.
This recent tragedy shows just how important that was and continues to be.
- The rates of committal to prison for women are increasing overall
- Even though women are more likely to be charged with non-violent crime - typically shop-lifting, receiving stolen goods and non-payment of fines - the rate of their being held in prison on remand is higher than for men
- Committal to prison for non-payment of fines alone has been escalating dramatically
- Women are commonly being sent to prison for very short sentences – 75% of women sent to prison in 2018 were serving three months or less
- All three major categories of crime committed by women centre on the root problem of living in poverty
- The SVP report estimates that the annual cost to the state of NOT dealing with the consequences of poverty ranges between €3bn and €7.2bn
I was honoured today to stand shoulder to shoulder with exiled Catalan leaders and colleagues on the steps of the European Parliament, to present this letter signed by 250 parliamentarians demanding amnesty for Catalan prisoners and exiles. Spain must heed the call, end its repression, honour its democratic obligations and enter dialogue. #CatalanAmnesty https://www.eucatplatform.eu/letter-on-amnesty/