Latvija in brief - 2005-02-09

  • 2005-02-09
Lithuania will likely repay its $1.5 million debt by the end of this year, according to a draft bill accepted by Parliament this week. Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks is expected to meet with his Lithuanian counterpart, Antanas Valionas, and sign the agreement next week. The Lithuanian Embassy in the United States accrued the debt in the 1980s when the Latvian Embassy supported Lithuanian diplomatic operations during that period. No interest was charged.

The European Court of Human Rights has turned down two cases filed against Latvia over the spelling of surnames in passports. The court unanimously turned down the cases Mentzen vs. Latvia and Kuharec vs. Latvia, the Foreign Ministry's press office stated. The court said in its ruling it was not in the court's competence to decide upon Latvia's system for spelling the names of persons in Latvian. The court also found that, while transforming the surnames Mentzen and Kuharec to comply with Latvian grammar peculiarities, the surnames changed only minimally. The use of Mencena and Kuhareca 's the Latvian language version for the two surnames 's has not prevented their holders from exercising all their political, economic and social rights, the court ruled.

A Riga district court will begin hearing the case of Maris Sants against Riga Culture High School this month. Sants said that his sexual orientation prevented him from being hired as a history of religion teacher, despite having a master's degree in theology and years of teaching experience. He is seeking 3,000 lats (4,200 euros) in damages against the school. The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church defrocked Sants in 2002 after he admitted he was gay.

Security Police detained Aivars Avgustinovics, customs chief for Latgale, on suspicion of demanding a $3,000 bribe. After searching his home in the town of Rezekne, authorities found cash and other documents.

The U.S. Embassy strongly criticized a recent article by the daily Neatkariga Rita Avize titled "Scandal: Prosecutor Maizitis," saying that the story contained "unfounded allegations" and "distorted information." The embassy questioned the story's journalistic integrity and the political power controlling the paper, as well as arguing that it could be an attempt by some people in Latvia to prevent Maizitis from doing his job. Maizitis provided information regarding an ongoing fraud case involving Balodis Printing, a subsidiary of Proctor & Gamble, to former Ambassador Brian Carlson after the latter requested it, the embassy said. Neatkariga Rita Avize is believed to be controlled by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs, who also supposedly controls the Ventspils Nafta transit corporation through offshore shell companies. Maizitis requested the aid of Swiss authorities to ascertain the truth behind these suspicions, leading Lembergs to repeatedly criticize him in the media.