Lithuanian court puts off hearing of 1991 Soviet crackdown case till March due to pandemic

  • 2022-02-14
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The Lithuanian Supreme Court said on Monday it had postponed its first hearing in the January 1991 Soviet crackdown case until March due to the "worsening of the pandemic situation".

The court had been scheduled to start hearing appeals in February. 

"Taking into account the size of the case, the need to manage the flow of persons and the space allocated to them and the estimated duration of the hearings, the number of participants and the lack of technical possibilities to organize remote hearings", it was decided to hold the first hearing on March 2, it said in a press release.

The courtroom will only be open to participants in the proceedings, Members of the media and the public who register in advance will be able to watch the trial remotely in the court's premises, according to the press release. 

Sixteen cassation appeals have been received in the case, of which 13 have been accepted for hearing.

Defense lawyers are asking the court of cassation to acquit the convicts and to overturn their sentences.

The victims and the General Prosecutor's Office have not appealed against the judgement.

Last March, the Lithuanian Court of Appeal partially upheld part of the appeals against Vilnius Regional Court's verdict and changed sentences for Yuri Mel, Gennady Ivanov and 14 other convicts in the January 13th case. 

Only two of the convicts had their sentences commuted. 

A total of 67 people were convicted and handed prison sentences in the mass trial. 

The majority of the defendants were convicted in absentia as Russia and Belarus refused to extradite them. 

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were injured when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of January 13, 1991.

The Soviet Union used military force in its attempt to remove the legitimate government of Lithuania which declared independence on March 11, 1990.