Under house arrest, Uspaskich campaigns for office

  • 2007-10-03
  • By Kimberly Kweder

VILNIUS - From the confines of his house arrest, former Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich launched a last-minute effort to convince voters in the Dzukija region that he is qualified to win a seat in Parliament.
Uspaskich is standing as a candidate in the Oct. 7 election, despite being detained in his own home for up to six months.

After living in Moscow in a self-imposed exile lasting 18 months, the ex-MP arrived at the Vilnius International Airport on Sept. 26 to smiles, hugs, flowers, and handcuffs. Lithuanian Law enforcement officials took him into custody at the airport, and a court imposed a six-month house arrest order shortly after.
According to the terms of his detention, Uspaskich cannot go outside from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., participate in public events or communicate with other suspects in the pre-trial investigation into alleged tax and electoral fraud charges.
In a twist of events, both prosecutors and Uspaskich's lawyers filed appeals to the Vilnius District Court on Oct. 1.

Uspaskich's lawyers have appealed for the court to dismiss his house arrest, while prosecutors want to see him jailed.
Meanwhile, members of the Labor Party are going door-to-door for last-minute votes. Secretariat of the Labor Party political group Vytautas Gapsys told The Baltic Times the "house arrest contradicts democratic principles."
"To not allow him to participate in public events is a way to prevent his campaign," said Gapsys.
Labor Party advisor Sergey Dobriakov said locals in Kedainiai and party members said there was a positive reaction to the millionaire's return.
"He has huge support. His wife, his children and business partners and friends from companies reside there too," Dobriakov said.

There are 500 members of the Labor Party in the electoral district of Dzukija and 13,000 registered in Lithuania.
"We think that this investigation is absolutely political and intended to destroy the Labor party," said Dobriakov.
The prosecutor heading up the pre-trial investigation is appealing to the court to place a three month jail term on Uspaskich, said Aurelija Juodyte, spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General's Office.
"The risk that the suspect could hide from prosecution has not yet faded," said prosecutor Saulius Verseckas in a press release.

Rytis Juozapavicius, Director of Transparency International Lithuanian Chapter, said he thinks Uspaskich will get away with paying a small fine in the end.
"He's a guy who is a planner, who acts, and he thinks and calculates. To my eyes, he'll come back to Parliament, and his criminal case will come back with nothing," he said.
Another nine candidates will run against Uspaskich for the Dzukija constituency on Oct. 7.