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Embattled MPs lose immunity

  • 2008-12-10
  • By Justinas Vainilavicius
VILNIUS -  The Seimas (Lithuanian parliament) has decided to strip Rokas Zilinskas, Viktor Uspaskich and Vytautas Gapsys of their legal immunity at the request of the Prosecutor General because they were all standing trial at the time of the election.
 The trio will now be obligated to continue with the trials that they were standing when sworn into Parliament.
 After the announcement, Zilinskas told Alfa news portal in a video conference that he feels relieved to know what is going to happen.

 "I am not disappointed by the Seimas decision 's I have an excellent opportunity to defend myself in the court. I do not think I deserve criminal charges for what I have done," Zilinskas said.
 Uspaskich was trying to convince MPs during the speech in Seimas that he is a victim of a political game and compared himself to Russian oligarch and former Yukos president Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who was imprisoned when he started opposing Vladimir Putin.

 Uspaskich's counterpart, MP Loreta Grauziniene, said that this is clearly an attempt to terminate the Labor Party and this decision is made only because Uspaskich refused to accept the will of some political groups and resisted them.
 Gapsys told The Baltic Times earlier that revoking his legal immunity is a way to destroy his political career.
 "These cases take months and in this case, this case is already two and a half years old. Should I wait years to start my political career? Should I wait until I am 65?" Gapsys asked.

 The Seimas was supposed to make a decision on the issue the previous week, but it postponed its verdict after disagreeing with the commissions formed to investigate the issue. The commissions decided that legal immunity should not be taken away from Resurrection party member Zilinskas and Labor party member Gabsys.

However, a commission on Uspaskich decided that he should lose his legal protection. It explained that as a leader of the party he holds more responsibility than fellow party member Gabsys.
 After repealing the legal protection of the three MPs, the legal procedures are to continue. Zilinskas, a former TV news presenter, is charged with a violation of public order, insulting and resisting police officers.
Labor Party leader Uspaskich and Gabsys, a member of the same party, are on trial for fraudulent bookkeeping during the recent election, with the party suspected of failing to include over 24 million litas (6.96 million euros) in income and 23 million litas in expenditures in their books.

 "The trial will continue, and the court will decide how long the procedures are going to last," said Aurelija Juodyte, a Press Officer of General Prosecutor.
 If found guilty, Zilinskas faces up to three years in prison. Uspaskich and Gabsys could get as many as four years in jail.

 A total of 88 parliamentarians voted for revoking Zilinskas and Gapsys legal immunity, while 18 and 15 were against, respectively. Some 90 MPs voted for repealing Uspaskich's immunity, 12 were against.
 To pass a decision like this, 71 votes 's a simple 50 percent majority 's is necessary. Prosecutor General Algimantas Valantinas asked Seimas to make the step because it is the only institution enabled to do so.