Court sentences two former OMON soldiers

  • 2004-10-06
  • From wire reports
RIGA - The Riga Regional Court on Oct. 4 sentenced two former members of the Soviet special force OMON to suspended jail time.

Igors Gorbans was given a suspended sentence of one year in jail - with an equal probation period - while Konstantins Nikulins was given two years and six months in jail - with a probation of two years - for their participation in quelling public demonstrations in Latvia in January and August 1991.

Previously, the prosecution had demanded suspended sentences of one year and six months for Gorbans and three years for Nikulins.

Neither of the two, who took part in violent moves aimed to squash Latvia's struggle for independence, would plead guilty under charges that included attacks on police officials and civilians, people, looting and demolition.

In a few episodes, both Gorbans and Nikulins were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. However, the court found both guilty on all other accounts, with testimonial proof from defendants, victims and witnesses.

The judge pointed out that because the defendants carried out their commanding officer's orders, they were aware that their actions were directed against the state power.

The attempt to oppress the Baltic states' peaceful fight for independence started in January 1991 when the Soviet army invaded Vilnius' television tower. Lead by the Popular Front, thousands of people flooded to the Baltic capitals to help defend strategic locations during the height of the pro-independence movement.

During the attempted January coup, known as the Barricade Days, OMON troopers killed six people. Although less violent, a similar coup was staged in August that also failed.

All in all, 43 former OMON troopers have been wanted in Latvia since the early 1990s. In November 1999, 10 were found guilty for dissident activities. None of them, however, was sentenced to actual prison terms. Seven received suspended jail time and three were released from punishment.