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Convicted participant of 2009 riots denied early release

  • 2018-07-17
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - Riga City Latgale District Court today denied a request for early release to Ansis Ataols Berzins, who is serving a prison term for his involvement in the January 13, 2009 riot in Riga.

The court ruling can be appealed before Riga Regional within ten days. Berzins’ lawyer Janis Mucenieks told journalists after the court hearing that the appeal would be lodged.

At today’s hearing, the court heard representatives of the Riga Central Prison, the State Probation Service and witnesses called by the defense.

During the court hearing it was revealed that a cellphone was found in Berzins’ cell in the Riga Central Prison in May, which the prosecutor used as an argument against releasing Berzins on parole.

Representatives of the Riga Central Prison and the State Probation Service told the court that they did not a reason for Berzins’ release on parole as he still has not admitted his guilt.

As reported, Berzins was convicted in Latvia for participation in the January 13, 2009, riot in Riga but fled the country to avoid serving his sentence of one year and eight months which took effect in February 2016 after the Riga Regional Court rejected Berzins' appeal against the guilty verdict and he was supposed to go to jail. Berzins claimed that he was seeking political asylum in the Czech Republic.

During an online news conference via Skype in July 2016, Berzins announced that he felt let down by the Latvian state. As a young boy, he had actively participated in the drive for Latvia's independence but now the Latvian authorities want to put him in jail, he complained. However, he did not deny that he had been throwing cobblestones at the Latvian parliament building during the riot.

Berzins was detained and jailed in the Czech Republic in spring 2017. In February 2018, Berzins' lawyer said that Berzins had been beaten up by the Czech jail wardens. On March 13, 2018, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic as the final instance court rejected Berzins' appeal against his extradition to Latvia. On March 23, he got sent back to Latvia and was put in jail.

On January 13, 2009, a peaceful rally turned into a riot and over 50 rioters have been convicted, although most got off with community service and only nine were given real jail terms. The conditional sentence given to Berzins by the court became a real jail term after the man failed to register with the State Probation Service which was one of the conditions of his conditional sentence.