Paper launches all-out attack on general prosecutor

  • 2005-02-16
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - Media attacks against General Prosecutor Janis Maizitis entered their second week, with the Neatkariga Rita Avize daily continuing to run lengthy articles accusing the state's top prosecutor of unethical practices.

The articles and editorials, which take up entire pages of the broadsheet paper, have accused Maizitis of violating ethical norms when he informed former U.S. Ambassador Brian Carlson of an ongoing criminal case involving an American company.

The newspaper has drawn up a web of connections and printed stories claiming the existence of a clandestine international conspiracy 's similar to ones they accused George Soros of last year when an organization that the billionaire had partially funded came under fire for criticizing the appointment of Ingrida Udre.

Neatkariga Rita Avize is owned by Mediju Nams, a media outfit widely believed to be controlled by Ventspils Mayor Aivars Lembergs. Maizitis, many observers are claiming, has gotten beneath Lembergs' skin after he sent a request to Swiss prosecutors last year for legal assistance in determining the true ownership of a number of Latvian companies domiciled in Switzerland and related to Ventspils business interests.

Last year the Ventspils municipal government bought ad space in all leading papers, including The Baltic Times, to dispute Maizitis' appeal to Swiss authorities.

The attacks come as no surprise to Maizitis, who has said that unnamed individuals have warned him in the past that his reputation would be impugned in the press if he did not ease inquiry into certain investigations. While interviewed by Latvian television on Feb. 11, the general prosecutor declined to reveal the source of the warnings.

President Vaira Vike-Freiberga has said the attacks could be related with someone not wanting to see Maizitis as the chief prosecutor for another five years. "While looking at this publication and all the poorly substantiated arguments, one gets that impression," the president told journalists last week.

Maizitis' term for re-election is due to come up before Parliament within three months.

Despite strong support from the president, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis has said that, if Maizitis believes he is being pressured, he should reveal their identity.

Ambassador Carlson asked Maizitis to update him on an ongoing case involving Procter & Gamble's subsidiary, Balodis Printing, which was accused of defrauding its parent company of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The embassy said that it was provided information only after it was requested, and had asked and received information from a number of other governmental agencies involved in the case as well.

Justice Minister Solvita Aboltina has said that, in her opinion, Maizitis did not violate the law.

The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, has condemned the accusations in Neatkariga Rita Avize, calling them "groundless" and "twisted."

As an embassy official said in a statement, "Mischaracterizing the nature of the Balodis Printing fraud case in order to launch an ill-considered attack on Prosecutor General Maizitis can only be seen as suggesting that there are some here in Latvia who do not want the prosecutor general to do his job, which is central to promoting the rule of law."

Independent analysts agreed. "This is an unquestionable case of demagoguery," said Karlis Streips, a political analyst who also teaches journalism at the university level. "This is coming from a paper that does tend to create scandals out of whole cloth."