SCENE Of THE CRIME: For reference, the inscription translates as 'Fatherland and Freedom', not 'Gents'
RIGA -- Riga's Central District Court has upped the ante for drunkenrevellers planning to relieve themselves on a Riga landmark by sentencing aBriton to five days in custody 's a far harsher punishment than has been metedout so far.
34-year-old Shirzey Heshmat from London has become the first person chargedwith urinating on the centrally-located Freedom Monument to be made an exampleof. Until now, offenders found guilty of similar charges have only had to paymodest fines, though the amounts have been gradually increasing.
Heshmat now has 20 days to appeal the court ruling.
The severity of the sentence is partly as a result of Heshmat choosing toplead not guilty to the charges against him. Most people charged in the pasthave pleaded guilty in the knowledge that a quick fine will bring the case to aswift conclusion.
However, according to a court statement, Heshmat maintainedthat he was not actually relieving himself on the best-known symbol of Latvianidentity. He said he was simply running up and down the stairs at the back ofthe monument in a moment of horseplay when his trousers accidentally fell down.
When members of the elite Alfa special police force approached him to effectan arrest, he was attempting to replace his troublesome trousers, he claimed.
The court took into account the fact that Heshmat was under the influence ofalcohol at the time of the offense.
The stiff sentence comes soon after Riga mayor Janis Birks voiced concern atthe leniency of sentences being handed out to offenders. National Police ChiefAldis Lieljuksis has suggested that a 15-day custodial sentence would beappropriate for similar offenses.
Cases of urinating on the freedom monument have aroused increasing publicfury and frustration among locals. The perpetrators are widely perceived to beBritish and Irish stag parties who become inebriated and then choose to emptytheir bloated bladders in the shadows of the Freedom Monument, unaware of bothits historical significance and the fact that police keep a close watch on itday and night.
Other nationalities including Poles and Norwegians have also beenapprehended on or near the Freedom Monument for a variety of reasons, includingattempting to scale the monument itself.
In recent months a Scotsman was fined for flashing the contents of his kiltand a New Zealander was arrested for allegedly donning the infamousswimsuit popularised by the movie character Borat and posing for photographs onthe monument.
In a coincidental move, Riga City Council has mooted a planto use the interior of the Freedom Monument as a small exhibition space forspecial events.
The possibility was discussed Feb. 19 by Guntis Gailitis, director of the RigaMunicipal Monument Agency, parliamentary speaker Gundars Daudze, and Riga MayorJanis Birks.
Currently the 24-square meter space inside the Freedom Monument is used forstorage.
Another of the options suggested by Gailitis includes the installation of aplaque to be installed near the monument 's hopefully with its significanceboldly displayed in various European languages.