Latvija in brief - 2005-05-11

  • 2005-05-11
Judgments were handed out in the Banka Baltija case by a Riga regional court, sentencing former head Aleksandrs Lavents to seven years and seven months in prison. Former President Talis Freimanis was sentenced to six years and Alvis Lidums was given three years and three months. All three had already served their time, but the court is seeking the return of nearly eight million lats from Lavents and Freimanis in connection with a case filed by energy monopoly Latvenergo. Both men, along with Prosecutor Juris Peda, said they might appeal the ruling. The collapse of Banka Baltija in the mid-1990s lead to a banking crisis as depositors and business lost more than 200 million lats.

Police detained a TV crew from LTV in the Pytalovo region of Russia on May 9, after filming a segment for television. The crewmembers were taken to a local police station where they were questioned, and their videotapes erased. Journalist Ivo Kirsblats and cameraman Maris Jirgensons were covering the May 9 celebrations in Pytalovo. The area had belonged to Latvia before World War II, when it was called Abrene. After being released, the two were told they had to leave by 6 p.m. that same day. They also found that the windshield of their car had been smashed, although their documents were in order.

The Foreign Ministry announced that it would recall its honorary council to Malta, Anthony Sammut, after he was caught trying to board a plane with a gun. "I have enough information at my disposal to recall him. His conduct is not compatible with the office of honorary consul," Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks said, adding that Sammut would be replaced soon by a new, "better" consul. According to media reports, Sammut was caught trying to board a plane to London from Valletta with a loaded gun. He claimed the gun was strictly for protection, since he had recently received threats.

The government said on May 10, that they would put forward the European Constitution for Parliamen-tary ratification despite the presence of a number of spelling errors. "Only 10 corrections have been made, but all 500 mistakes may have linguistic implications," Education and Science Minister Ina Druviete said. The initial translation had 160 substantial errors and 350 editorial mistakes. The government withdrew the first draft in January due to the mistakes.

Indulis Emsis, chairman of Parliament's security committee, said he would propose that future protests on national holidays be banned in light of the rancor that accompanied the May 4 celebrations. Minority activists attempted to interrupt the flower-laying ceremony at the Freedom Monument, which commemorated the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of independence. Emsis has proposed moving the protestors to other locations in the future.