Lithuanian court rejects motion to summon Khodorkovsky to testify in Paleckis trial

  • 2021-05-19
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Siauliai Regional Court rejected on Wednesday a motion to summon Kremlin critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky to testify in the trial of Algirdas Paleckis, a former Lithuanian politician charged with spying for Russia. 

The motion was put forward by Paleckis' defense lawyers, Adomas Liutvinskas and Kestutis Ragaisis, who wanted the court to renew the examination of evidence. 

In his recent report on "The Kremlin's Influence on EU politics", the former president of Yukos Oil Company told the European Parliament that Paleckis had been "in contact with pro-Kremlin agents at least since 2010". 

According to the lawyers, Khodorkovsky also said that Russia's authorities had set up a task group on the Paleckis case and the January 13, 1991 crackdown case and that the country's intelligence agents were closely following the trial and preparing assistance to the former politician.

In the lawyers' opinion, these circumstances require reopening the examination of evidence in the trial and questioning Khodorkovsky as a witness. Ragaisis said, among other things, that the Kremlin critic had to be questioned also because he might have access to non-public material of the case.

Vilma Vidugiriene, the public prosecutor, asked the court to reject the motion, saying that Khodorkovsky's report had nothing to do with the case, all the more so because he told MEPs that he was presenting information collected by journalists and that it could not be corroborated in court. 

The court rejected the request to reopen the examination of evidence, saying that allegations in Khodorkovsky's report were not the subject of the case, Vytautas Joncas, the court's spokesman, told BNS. 

Paleckis and Deimantas Bertauskas, a businessman, are standing trial on charges of spying for the benefit of a foreign country in an organized group. While the latter admits his guilt, the former politician denies any wrongdoing, saying he was conducting a journalistic investigation.

According to the Prosecutor General's Office, the defendants, acting in an organized group with a Russian intelligence officer and other Russian citizens, including one found guilty in the January 13, 1991 crackdown case, allegedly collected information of interest for Russian intelligence in Lithuania between February 2017 and October 2018 for monetary and other remuneration.

"Other remuneration" included assistance in establishing contacts with representatives of a Russian political party to secure funding for one of the political parties registered in Lithuania, as well as assistance in establishing business ties.

Prosecutors say the defendants were also tasked with collecting information on officers and judges who worked on the January 13 case in Lithuania, and on other cases related to Russia's aggression in Lithuania in 1990-1991.

Among other things, the defendants allegedly had to find people working for Lithuanian institutions who would agree to provide false information to Lithuanian law enforcement institutions about the health state of Yuri Mel in exchange for unlawful monetary remuneration, in an attempt to replace his detention with a milder measure of restraint or improve his detention conditions.