Latvija in brief - 2008-01-16

  • 2008-01-16
Latvian State Police decided on Jan. 12 to uphold the decision to fire two officers suspected of beating a detainee to death. Last June detained businessman Kaspars Ievins-Brambis was found dead in his cell in a detention facility in Sigulda. The cause of death was found to be a blow to the head, and three officers were later detained in connection with the incident. The men won an appeal in court, and were freed from detention and placed under police supervision on June 17.

Janis Dzelme, an aide for lawmaker Dainis Turlais, was sentenced to 100 hours of community service on Jan. 15 for hooliganism. Dzelme was found guilty of harassing members of the 2006 gay pride demonstration by throwing bags of excrement at a member of the Mozaika gay rights group. The defendant confessed to being present at the protest, ostensibly to protest "gay propaganda," but denied that he assaulted demonstrators in any way. Numerous protesters, on behalf of the no pride movement, were detained in 2006 for hurling bags of excrement at people leaving a church service given by a gay preacher. Dzelme is a member of the radical right wing New Generation Church, which sent a large contingent of people to the court room to give him support.

Controversial basketball star Kaspars Kambala, banned for two years from the sport for a failed drug test, has moved back to the United States and taken up professional boxing until he is allowed to play basketball again. The athlete had his first match in Las Vegas on Jan. 11, finishing with a draw against local boxer Alvaro Morales. Kambala participated in two amateur boxing matches last year, winning them both by knock out. He has played professional basketball for a number of high-profile European teams, including Istanbul's Efes Pilsen, Madrid's Real, Kazan's UNIC and most recently Fenerbahce in Turkey.

A health ministry study released on Jan. 12 found that Latvian men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. The study also found that men tend to kill themselves at a younger age than women. In 2006, the suicide rate in Latvia was 6.6 women and 38.7 men per 100,000 residents, down from 9.8 women and 42 men in 2005. Though the suicide rate has been steadily declining in recent years, Latvia still boasts the fifth highest suicide rate in the world. The ministry said the higher suicide rate for men was due to their traditional role as "breadwinners" for the family. 

The Latvian national team took first place in the European luge championships held on Jan. 13 in Cesana, Italy. The team included Andris Sics, Juris Sics, Martins Rubenis and Maija Tiruma. While all of the Latvian contestants finished second individually, their combined score was the best of any country. Austria came in second in the competition, with a combined time only 0.008 seconds slower than the Latvians. The Italian team came in third 0.05 seconds behind.