Kononovs case turned down by highest court

  • 2005-07-13
  • By TBT staff
RIGA - The European Court of Human Rights refused to hear a case brought by the convicted war criminal Vasilijs Kononovs.
Kononovs' lawyer told the media on July 12 that the court would not hear the case, bringing to a close one of the most highly contested rows between Latvia and Russia.

"We have the right for our case to be a priority if there are poor health conditions and life threats involved. However the European court, in a brief two-line message, denied us this chance," said Kononovs' legal representative Mikhail Yofe.

The Strasbourg-based court registered the case last August.

The octogenarian Kononovs was sentenced to a year and eight months in prison for killing nine civilians in the eastern village of Mazie Bati in 1944. He began serving his time in 1998.

His lawyer argued that the Latvian court's rulings had been illegal. Kononovs, a so-called "red partisan," was hailed as a hero by the Soviets and awarded medals for his role in the attack.

During various stages of his trial, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued strong condemnations against the Latvian state and accused it of bias against Soviet criminals, while Nazis were left alone, if not lauded.

When Kononovs was released in 2000, he was awarded Russian citizenship.

Russian politicians and the media kept Kononovs in the public eye. He received an honor in 2003 at the Russian Embassy in Riga for his service to the Russian nation in foreign lands.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also famously sent Kononovs Christmas greetings while he was in prison.

Kononovs was one of the first three people tried in an independent Latvia for crimes related to the Soviet period and World War II. His trial heightened tensions between Latvia and Russia throughout the course of six trials with both defeats and appeals. He was originally sentenced to six years in prison. A Riga regional court even refused to allow the Russian ambassador and medics to visit Kononovs in prison.