Activist loses court cases, banned from Latvia

  • 2005-10-05
  • By Aaron Eglitis
RIGA - A Riga district court upheld a government decision to deport anti-education reform activist Aleksandr Kazakov from the country, while also rejecting his claim for damages on Oct. 3.

In addition to turning down his request to re-enter Latvia, the court did not look at Kazakov's demands for 76,600 lats (109,000 euros) in moral and personal damages.

The court did rule, however, that the Interior Ministry should put down its decision to place Kazakov on a persona non grata list in writing.

"I'm speechless. My old mother lives in Latvia," Kazakov told the Russian language Chas. He said he would "definitely" appeal.

Kazakov was deported from the country Sept. 4 last year, shortly after his wife, a Latvian citizen, passed away.

Interior Minister Eriks Jekabsons said at the time that Kazakov was inciting ethnic hatred (see Q&A Page 18). After the activist was widowed, he no longer had the legal right to remain in the country, and since he was a citizen of Russia, the authorities sent him to the border.

Kazakov was born in Latvia, and still has family in the Baltic country. During the Soviet period he moved to Russia, attending university in Moscow and later applied for citizenship.

Kazakov told The Baltic Times last year that he was an advisor to Dmitry Rogozin, head of Rodina or Motherland Party in the Russian Duma. Rogozin has been one of the Baltic state's most vociferous critics, going so far as to vow to block President Vaira Vike-Freiberga's motorcade in Moscow in May.

Kazakov said he worked with Rogozin on a volunteer basis.

The activist was a key leader of the radical group Shtab (headquarters in Russia), an unregistered organization that opposed the school reform. Public statements by the group's leaders became increasingly bombastic in the run-up to the September 2004 school year, with Kazakov giving a speech comparing the school reform to "spiritual terrorism" and mentioning the Beslan massacre.

The rhetoric became so extreme that it may have inadvertently driven many participants away, and their final mass demonstrations brought out a significantly older crowd.

The government hit back by holding a concert in the Old Town to compete with the Shtab rally and by attacking the group's leadership. It expelled Kazakov from the country, and later made an extraordinary decision to bar another activist, Jurijs Petropavlovskis, from citizenship despite passing the exam. The Cabinet of Ministers said Petropavlovskis was not "loyal" to the state.

Since then, a debate about adding a "loyalty clause" to the country's citizenship law has been ongoing.

Petropavlovskis also made radical statements, hinting at mass unrest, and using gangs at his disposal.

The court's decision supporting Kazakov's expulsion could be appealed within 20 days time to the administrative regional court level. If Kazakov does not end up winning in Latvia, he has promised to take his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Petropavlovskis will also appeal the decision to bar him from citizenship in court.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has requested an explanation from Latvian authorities for Kazakov's expulsion.