24 Nov 2021

6 years in Lithuanian prison for investigative journalism

(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.

08 Nov 2021

“Binding the Guardian” study out now

Binding the Guardian, a study commissioned by MEP Clare Daly and written by an award winning academic Albena Azmanova, investigates the European Commission’s annual rule of law reports (2020 & 2021). The study questions the Commission’s willingness to protect the rule of law, with reference to its reports on France, Spain and Bulgaria. It investigates the Commission’s failure to properly address France’s increasing use of fast-tracked security laws and discriminatory legislation against Muslim civil society organisations, the assault on political freedoms in Spain, and how it turned a blind eye to the close links between the Bulgarian state and the oligarchic mafia.                 Study accessible here ->http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/BindingtheGuardian.pdf Having trouble with the link above? Download here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1G56dpjpoNvlREvUqBiy8PhZFhCyk0OcY/view?usp=sharing
07 Nov 2021

Bulgaria Rule of Law Booklet

BULGARIA –  A Call to Protect the Rights of Bulgarian Citizens from Systematic rule of Law Infringements under Article 2 of the TEU and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. The European Commission’s rule of law monitoring mechanism fails to review entrenched, systemic rule of law issues in Bulgaria, and is therefore glaringly ineffective at protecting Bulgarian citizens’ rights under Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU. See full booklet here: http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/RuleofLawBookletEN.pdf
05 Nov 2021

България – Призив за защита правата на българските граждани от систематични нарушения на върховенството на закона, съгласно Европейското Законодателство

България: Призив за защита правата на българските граждани от систематични нарушения на върховенството на закона, съгласно Европейското Законодателство. Мониторинговият механизъм на Европейската комисия за върховенството на закона не отразява дълбоко вкоренените, системни проблеми на върховенството на закона в България и, поради това, страда от фрапираща липса на ефективност в защитата на правата на българските граждани, съгласно чл. 2 на Договора за Европейския съюз и Хартата на основните права на Европейския Съюз. Вижте повече тук: http://claredaly.ie/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/RuleofLawBookletBG.pdf
17 Aug 2021

On the developments in Afghanistan

While we watch the scenes from Afghanistan in horror, let's not forget that it was the invasion in 2001 that made all of this inevitable.
This poem from Kevin Higgins, which was written just before the US went into Afghanistan, remembers the dangerous stupidity that gripped the West.
It is important to learn from history. Never again.
31 May 2021

Ireland, plus ça change – Yet again the Irish state is failing vulnerable pregnant women

By Jo Murphy-Lawless, via The Elephant Collective on Facebook. In June last year, in the midst of Covid times, Keith Adams published a piece on the Centre for Faith and Justice website entitled No Country for Poor Women (https://www.jcfj.ie/2020/06/18/poorwomen/) where he examined data from two reports on poverty and prison conditions, the Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2019 (https://www.irishprisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/documents_pdf/IPS-Annual-Report-2019-Web.pdf) and a report from the SVP entitled 'The Hidden Cost of Poverty' (https://www.svp.ie/getattachment/869467cb-2d60-4fe2-b612-a8c6e4357cdc/The-Hidden-Cost-of-Poverty.aspx). He argued that these reports challenge us as a society to think hard about the interconnections between gender and poverty and the stark consequences for women caught in poverty when things go badly wrong. Taken together, the reports lay out the following:
  • 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
When we look elsewhere at statistics on women and poverty (and a comprehensive database on poverty has been made far more difficult to put together since the independent statutory Combat Poverty Agency was abolished by the state in 2009), we learn that in 2019, single parent households with one or more children under the age of 18 had the highest at risk rate of poverty, 29.7 per cent compared with 6.1 per cent in two person households with one or more children under the age of 18 (CSO, 2020). (more…)
29 Apr 2021

European Defence Fund – Plenary speech

Today the European Parliament had its last chance - with our group's rejection amendment for the European Defence Fund - to say NO to crossing the line and dumping €8 billion of public funds into weapons spending. Sadly this morning it voted for militarism over common sense, 697 to 139. In writing this cheque for the European Defence Fund, the parliament has put in place the cornerstone for an EU military industrial complex. A union founded on an ideal of peace signing off for the first time on a slush fund of €8 billion for merchants of slaughter. What now for Irish neutrality?