RIGA - Justice Minister Solvita Aboltina called on a top prison official to step down after it emerged that he had authorized the creation of a secret prison, where inmates were providing labor for a local company.
Dailis Luks, a high-ranking prison official, had allegedly created an illegal prison in Melnsils, located in the Talsi district of western Latvia. Under Luks' leadership reportedly 36 female prisoners were moved from the Vecumnieki prison in southern Latvia to Melnsils.
"These reprimands and accusations are ungrounded and ridiculous," Luks said. "In this instance, I don't think the law was violated, only the state's interests. No violation of law," he added at a press conference on Dec. 20.
"This comes from an official who believes it's normal for the mother of an inmate to produce a health check notice on sexually-transmitted diseases. This too was a violation, without any legal foundation," the Leta news agency reported Aboltina as saying.
The justice minister also called Luks' concern "hypocritical." His prison guards have been accused of running amok, with little control exerted by Luks.
A parliamentary committee will reportedly call for Aboltina to appear and explain her decision to seek the removal of Luks.
Luks has pointed out in the media that inmates at minimum-security prisons can be employed. The official said he wrote to Aboltina long ago with an offer to employ some prisoners in Melnsils, a fish canning company. However, more prison guards would be needed to make sure the inmates did not escape. At the time, 12 guards were said to be necessary. The company also offered living facilities, hence the charge of an illegal prison.
"We saved some of the government budget's resources," Luks said of the prison-private business partnership.
The calls to resign are the culmination of an investigation that began on Nov. 30. Luks was later suspended on Dec. 7. Initially the case began because Luks had allegedly exceeded his authority and because of the actions of his subordinates. The prison official said he would turn to Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis to explain what was happening, and claimed that Aboltina could be motivated for personal or political reasons.