VILNIUS - President Valdas Adamkus decided against nationalizing U.S. basketball player Kathryn Douglas on Aug. 21, despite a recommendation from the Citizenship Commission. "When I was reading Douglas' application, I did not only follow the powers vested in me by the Constitution and laws, but also took account of other important circumstances, which raised doubts about the decision," Adamkus said in a press release.
"After considering the opinions of many legal experts and the Citizenship Commission's recommendation, I decided not to grant citizenship to Douglas by exception. The interior minister, who has to sign the citizenship decree, supported my opinion," said the president.
Adamkus, who as head of state is empowered to grant citizenship by exception, stressed that he understood the decision would disappoint many basketball fans, sports executives and the public who actively supported Douglas' determination to represent the Lithuanian national women's basketball team.
"It is a duty of high responsibility, as this right puts me under the obligation of taking into account all circumstances," Adamkus said in the press release.
The decision means that Douglas, regarded to be one of the top women's basketball players in the world, can no longer play on the national team.
"Personally I would like to see this athlete represent Lithuania during the upcoming world championships. However, I could not make the decision in the framework of my presidential duties," said Adamkus.
Following a meeting on Aug. 10, the Citizenship Commission recommended the president satisfy Douglas' citizenship application. In July, Parliament fast-tracked an amendment to the Citizenship Law that enables the president to grant Lithuanian citizenship by exception when it's linked with the public interest and promotes the country.
Until now, Lithuanian citizenship was granted by exception only for merits, which considerably contribute to the strengthening of Lithuanian statehood or prestige in the international arena.
However, after former President Rolandas Paksas awarded citizenship to his largest campaign donor, Yuri Borisov, the liberty became controversial. Paksas was later impeached for the incident.
Douglas, 27, was invited to join the U.S. national team but rejected the invitation, saying she wanted to represent Lithuania.
Last May, Adamkus awarded Douglas with the Cross of the Knight of the Order for her performance in the 2004-2005 FIBA Euroleague Women's Basketball Championships.