Latvija in brief - 2008-02-27

  • 2008-02-27
The leader of the Free Hawks motorcycle club was sentenced to nine years in prison on Feb. 26 for the large scale possession of drugs with the intent to distribute. The sentence also includes confiscation of property and two years of police supervision. Vilnis Gavars was arrested in the Russian city of Leningrad Oblest in January, 2007, after being on the run from police for nearly six years. He was extradited to Latvia and initially charged with intent to distribute drugs and illegal possession of firearms, but the firearms charges were later dropped. Gavars pled not guilty to the crime, a claim which was supported by a number of different biker movements throughout the investigation and trial.

A municipal police officer from Jelgava was accused of murder on Feb. 26. The victim was reportedly admitted into the Jelgava city hospital at about 1:00 a.m., and died shortly after. Police representatives said they found the heavily drunken man and placed him in a sobering station. When his condition worsened, police transported him to the hospital. Municipal Police acting head Guntars Akmentins said he was confident that the officer was innocent of the crime. The maximum punishment the man faces if found guilty is 15 years in prison.

Interior Minister Mareks Seglins promised to do everything in his power to ensure that order is kept during the upcoming March 16 Legionnaires Day parade. Past events have been met with clashes between extreme Latvian and Russian nationalists. "Security will be tough. If need be, there will be fences and hordes of police… It's much better to have more than less security measures," the minister told the Baltic News Service. Seglins said that he plans to release a detailed action plan sometime during the first week of March.

A suspicious bag found in the toilets at Riga's Airport on Feb. 25 forced security guard to bring all traffic through the terminal to a grinding halt for about two hours. A passenger alerted airport security about the bag at 10:30 a.m., and after security found the bag to be potentially dangerous they called in the elite Omega task force to deal with the threat. Security evacuated the terminal until about 12:20 p.m. The task force inspected the bag and discovered only nondescript contents. Only one flight was delayed because of the incident.

Leaders of the For Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK nationalist alliance, a junior member of the ruling coalition, blasted the slew of recent defectors for the way they decided to leave the party. MEP and Party Chairman Roberts Zile said divisions among the conservative group would only benefit left-wing parties, and that a group of old politicians could not bring anything new to the table anyway. He said that by leaving the party one by one, the defectors caused the maximum possible amount of damage to the party. A total of 83 prominent party members have dropped TB/LNNK in recent weeks.