Removed president acquitted, liberal democrats seek his comeback

  • 2005-12-21
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Two key figures in last year's presidential impeachment, Rolandas Paksas and Yuri Borisov, the former's biggest financial supporter, can relax after victories in Lithuanian courts.

The Supreme Court acquitted Paksas from charges of leaking state secrets to Borisov, a Russian businessman, on Dec. 13, while the latter, who was convicted of threatening a president and fined 10,000 litas (2,900 euros), was given permission by a Vilnius court to continue living in Lithuania.

The migration department of the Justice Ministry had requested to depose him as persona non grata.

The rulings re-ignited the debate whether Paksas was indeed guilty of violating the constitution and oath of office or if he had been the victim of a witch-hunt. The fact that the Supreme Court justices didn't read their arguments only added fuel to the speculation.

The judges' comments are expected to be open to the public within two weeks.

Whatever the arguments may be, the decision appears to have given Paksas and his supporters a new political lease. The Paksas-led Liberal Democrat Party is even mulling over the possibility of having the impeachment process re-evaluated.

Paksas, who has twice been prime minister, was banned for life from taking a public office that requires an oath.

"Justice has triumphed. My dears… I'm being acquitted," he told journalists in court after the verdict was read.

In April 2004, Paksas became the first modern head of state in Europe to be removed from office after Parliament impeached him on three charges of corruption and violating his oath of office and the constitution.

Before the final impeachment vote last year, the Constitutional Court was asked to give its opinion on the investigative report compiled on the case. It was based on questioning of more that 40 witnesses and materials from the State Security Department and General Prosecutor's Office. The Constitutional Court 's contrary to the Supreme Court's decision last week 's found that Paksas had violated the constitution by granting citizenship to Borisov, owner of the Avia Baltika aviation company, after the State Security Department told the president that Borisov might be involved in arms trading.

"One of the points used to proclaim - that he broke his oath of office and violated the constitution 's has been declared legally invalid by the Supreme Court. This is a serious reason to review the impeachment and its conclusions," said Valentinas Mazuronis, head of the Liberal Democrats in the Seimas [Lithuania's parliament], at a press conference.

Mazuronis, however, doubted Paksas would return to politics. "We will do everything for that to happen as soon as possible. It is not only the protection or rehabilitation of the leader of our party, it is the defense of all democratic processes in Lithuania, the restoration of the truth," he said.

However, Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, a lawyer by profession, discarded all speculation regarding Paksas' political rehabilitation, saying that political and legal responsibility are two very different subjects.

"We've said many times before that constitutional and political responsibility are different kinds of responsibilities, and the two shouldn't be confused," Paulauskas told a press conference.

He also said that Paksas' rejoicing is also odd, since the court, when discharging legal culpability, didn't nullify the impeachment. "Impeachment is a political decision 's it's over. And what happens in court cases is legal prosecution," Paulauskas explained to the Ziniu Radijas radio station.

MP Raimondas Sukys, who represented Parliament in the Constitutional Court during Paksas' case, commented that there was no doubt this ruling could be played for Paksas' rehabilitation. He explained that the Constitutional Court was not bounded with the Penalty Code, therefore it could assess evidence in a more liberal nature.

Sukys said he believed it was enough to impeach Paksas on the fact that he regularly met an individual who was being investigated by state security.

As for Borisov's residence, the migration department is still deliberating whether to appeal to higher judicial institutions to have its way.

Borisov's lawyer claims there is no evidence that the Russian businessman's presence threatens national security. The lawyer once again emphasized that Borisov had business interests and property in Lithuania and his family is in Lithuania.