Jewish community indignant over press, legislation

  • 2005-03-09
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - International Jewish Affairs Director Andrew Baker met with President Valdas Adamkus on March 7 to express disappointment over a recent decision by the Prosecutor General's Office to terminate a probe into anti-Semitic articles in the Respublika daily.
Rita Grumadaite, the president's press secretary, said that pre-trial findings by the Prosecutor General's Office "looked dubious" to the head of state.

"In the president's opinion, not every legal instrument was exhausted during the investigation. Therefore the president urged lawyers at the President's Office to scrutinize the investigation and produce their own findings, motives and validation of the decision by the Prosecutor General's Office," Grumadaite said.

The investigation was launched in March 2004 in accordance with Article 170 of the Penal Code, which provides liability for discrimination against any national, racial, ethnic, religious or other group of people.

The series of articles by Respublika editor-in-chief Vitas Tomkus entitled "Who Rules the World?" were accompanied by cartoon depictions of a Jew and a homosexual. Politicians, distinguished public figures, and foreign diplomats described the illustrations as inciting anti-Semitism and homosexual intolerance, among other things.

In a separate development, the government was presented with a list of Jewish property waiting to be restored to the heirs of its rightful owners.

However, of the 400 items on the list, "many are questionable," according to Simonas Alperavicius, a 74-year-old Holocaust survivor and chairman of the Jewish Community of Lithuania.

All Lithuanian-based religious communities, with the exception of Jews and Karaites, have claimed their property rights in accordance with the reinstatement law, which has been in effect since 1995.

This particular legislation, however, does not allow the Jewish community to reclaim orphanages, retirement homes, kosher cafeterias, hospitals or other holdings that fall beneath the religious/social activity umbrella.

Yet representatives of the Jewish community, which totals around 4,000, do not distinguish such institutions as being either religious or social. Some 200,000 Jews lived in Lithuania prior to World War II.