Latvian law and order in chaos

  • 2007-10-01
  • By TBT staff and wire reports
RIGA - Latvian president Valdis Zatlers is the latest to voice his concern over one of the most bizarre incidents of the year 's even by the present P.T. Barnum standards of Latvian public life.

On his return from a trip to the U.S., Zatlers sent a letter to ombudsman Romans Apsitis expressing his concern about the observance of human rights in Latvia in general and the case of Edgars Gulbis in particular.

Gulbis, an employee of the parliamentary and presidential security service, jumped - or was pushed - from a police vehicle on the evening of Sep. 26 and fell into the River Daugava in Riga from Salu bridge in circumstances that are suspicious to say the least. Gulbis is suspected of involvement in a car bomb attack against Vladimirs Vaskevics, head of the Customs Criminal Board of the Latvian State Revenue Service.

Furthermore, Gulbis' legal representatives have intimated that their client was beaten while in police custody and possibly drugged.

Gulbis survived the incident, but then while he was still hospitalized in a critical condition on Sep. 28, the Riga Vidzeme District Court ruled to remand him in custody.

After the ruling was announced, Gulbis' lawyer Karlis Paleps told journalists that his client was the victim of numerous human rights violations. "I have information at my disposal suggesting that nobody can be sure that their rights will be observed," the lawyer said.

"How can they arrest him without torturing him?" he added, describing the entire incident is "very strange". He also said he did not understand the reasons for preventing Gulbis' legal representatives meet with their client directly and for not giving details of the supposed evidence liking Gulbis to the car bombing.

Another of Gulbis' associates claimed he had evidence that Gulbis had been beaten while in custody.

Meanwhile Zatlers signalled his grave concern at the way the incident reflects the current state of law and order in Latvia, saying, "The circumstances of Gulbis' detention should be viewed in a wider context with similar cases [in which] detainees have been subjected to violence and even died in police custody."

The Gulbis case is just one element in an increasingly unusual and disturbing set of developments within the security services. Last week prime minister Aigars Kalvitis said that a gang of rogue security agents was operating within the country and that "no official can feel safe."

Just days before, Kalvitis suspended the head of the KNAB anti-corruption bureau, Aleksejs Loskutovs, for alleged financial irregularities within his department.