RIGA - Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs (For Latvia and Ventspils), who on Monday was convicted on corruption charges, has compared his sentencing to the case of Russia's opposition activist Aleksey Navalny.
Riga Regional Court on Monday sentenced Lembergs to five year in prison, plus confiscation of property and a fine of EUR 20,000. The judge also lifted all the previous measures of security that had been applied to the defendant and ordered his arrest in the courtroom.
As the judge was reading the verdict in his case, Lembergs asked for a short break, which was granted to him. During that break, Lembergs first had a brief conversation with his son and co-defendant Anrijs and then used the rest of the time to give comments to journalists.
Lembergs told the journalists that he will appeal the ruling of Riga Regional Court and predicted that the hearing of his appeal will take another decade. Lembergs is also determined to appeal his detention, even though this appeal will be heard by the same regional court.
As for Latvia's upcoming municipal elections, Lembergs said that the decision on participation in these elections will be taken by his regional party For Latvia and Ventspils, but that his possible participation in the elections is currently not his main priority.
Commenting on the court ruling and his imminent detention, Lembergs said that this is a "normal political process of getting rid of an opposition politician". "It's the Navalny scenario, only happening in Latvia," Lembergs said.
The court ruling shows that prosecutor Juris Juriss and judge Jansone are advancing their careers, while Justice Minister Janis Bordans (New Conservative Party) and Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) need to maintain a good position ahead of the coming elections, Lembergs said.
He also indicated that he cannot lodge any claims against Latvia at this point. Earlier the European Court of Human Rights accepted two Lembergs' applications and he has also complained to the United Nations.
Lembergs was apparently prepared for being taken into custody and said that he even had toothpaste in his suitcase. When the judge had finished reading the verdict, a police convoy led Lembergs out of the courtroom.
As reported, Riga Regional Court today slapped a five-year jail term, confiscation of property and a EUR 20,000 fine on Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs.
Lembergs will be arrested at the court room. The court, however, will take into account the time Lembergs has already spent in arrest - from March 14 until July 10, 2007, and in house arrest - from July 10, 2007, until February 22, 2008.
The court also ruled that Lembergs has to pay large sums to several victims in the case.
In relation to some charges Lembergs was acquitted.
Lembergs son Anrijs Lembers got a jail term of two years and one month with confiscation of property, while Lembergs' former business partner Ansis Sormulis was sentenced to two years in jail with confiscation of property. Anrijs Lembergs and Sormulis will not be arrested at the court room. They will have to go to jail when the sentence takes force.
Both parties will be able to appeal the decision at the Riga Regional Court. The court started hearing the case in 2009.
Prosecutors have asked to impose eight-year jail term with confiscation of property and a fine worth 150 minimum wages or EUR 64,500 on Lembergs.
Lembergs is charged with massive graft, money laundering, abuse of his official powers and other crimes.
The prosecution also demands a jail term of five years and six months with confiscation of property for Anrijs Lembergs, and a jail term of seven years with confiscation of property for Lembergs' former business partner Ansis Sormulis.
The three defendants plead not guilty.