Brawl raises questions over security conduct

  • 2005-11-30
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Two U.S. servicemen were entangled in a fight with a Spaniard in a Vilnius strip club last weekend, with the latter filing a statement with police claiming he was assaulted.
The servicemen were handcuffed by security guards but later released by police.
U.S. Embassy officials in Vilnius, however, said security personnel used force against two U.S. airmen, both of whom are black, during the incident.

"The United States firmly condemns racial discrimination and urges that this aspect of the case be investigated thoroughly," Anthony Pahigian, the embassy's public affairs officer, told the Baltic News Service.

In his words, the embassy is working together with Lithuanian military and law enforcement officials to clarify the facts.

On Nov. 24, city police launched a pre-trial investigation. Reports indicate that the two Americans, deployed at the Zokniai air base outside Siauliai, allegedly battered the Spaniard.

The incident occurred in the early hours of Nov. 19. Vilnius police said the two Americans, who were watching an erotic program, began arguing with a 21-year-old Spaniard sitting nearby.

The quarrel soon broke into a fight, and one of the Americans allegedly drew a knife and tried to stab the Spaniard. The club's security handcuffed both Americans.

The two men, both sergeants, are serving at the U.S. fighter unit deployed in Zokniai near Siauliai, which is there to perform a Baltic air policing mission.

The Spanish citizen filed a statement with police on being victimized by the Americans, Vilnius' chief police commissioner's office told the Baltic News Service.

The two sergeants returned to their base and reported to their superiors they had been beaten.

This is not the first incident of violence involving servicemen. Several such cases with NATO servicemen deployed in Zokniai have occurred in Siauliai over the years. Usually under the influence of alcohol, the victims were attacked and robbed. Siauliai police have succeeded in solving all crimes against NATO servicemen.

Saturday's fight, however, was the first incident to take place in Vilnius.