Lembergs released at last

  • 2007-07-12
  • From wire reports

OUT OF JAIL, BUT NOT OUT OF THE WOODS: Lembergs will continue as Ventspils mayor despite house arrest, health worries and a criminal investigation (Picture: LETA)

RIGA 's Riga regional court released controversial Ventspils mayor Aivars Lembergs from custody July 10 after nearly four months in detention.

Despite the move, Lembergs remains the subject of an investigation into fraud allegations and will be placed under house arrest.

After the court decree, a crowd of supporters greeted the politician  - often referred to as one of Latvia's main 'oligarchs' - outside, some of them congratulating him by cheering and singing.

Prosecutor Krisjanis Rudzitis said that the prosecutor's office argued during the session that Lembergs could interfere with the investigation if he was released.

The court's decision to the contrary is binding, but should the circumstances of the criminal case change, the prosecutor's office may ask the court to detain Lembergs once again.

"If there is new action directed towards interfering with the investigation, like breach of the arrest or additional charges… These are circumstances that may lead to a new detention," said the prosecutor. He did not disclose if new charges are being prepared by the prosecutor's office.

House arrest may be applied if there are special circumstances that do not allow the convict to remain in custody. In this instance, the special circumstances are Lembergs' apparently worsening health.

"It will not be easy to control the behavior of this individual during home arrest," said the prosecutor.

This was the sixth time the court had considered releasing Lembergs, who told journalists that he will be spending his house arrest at his proprty in Puze, in north-west Latvia..

Lembergs plans to spend the arrest at his home in the northwestern Latvian district of Puze. Lembergs added that he would ask the investigating judge to change the house arrest to a less restricting measure: "Of course we will use our rights, as I want to work," he said.

"My rights to receive medical treatment were infringed as in prison there were no technical means to enable the treatment. There is only a cell and a space of three to four meters for walking," said Lembergs.

Lembergs believes he can continue to perform the functions of mayor of Ventspils without breaching the law, despite his stated health problems, and has stated that he intends to apply to the European Court of Human Rights over alleged violations of his rights to freedom and security.

Lembergs was detained on March 14 in connection with an investigation into corrpution among Ventspils officials. Serious charges against him include extortion, money laundering and providing false information in his income declaration.

Mamerts Vaivads, the former council chairman of Latvia's Ventspils Nafta, Krists Skuja, council chairman of the Ventamonjaks chemical and oil terminal, lawyer Gints Laivins-Laivenieks, businessman Ansis Sormulis businessman and Laimonis Junkers, the former chairman of Latvijas Naftas Tranzits are among other suspects in the corruption and money-laundering case.