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Pedophilia case provokes street protests

  • 2010-02-03
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

VILNIUS - On the evening of Jan. 29, some 50 people in front of the prosecutors’ office in Kaunas and some 40 people in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Vilnius gathered for a protest demonstration, organized via the Internet, against the decision of prosecutor Ramunas Sileika in the alleged pedophilia case. On the evening of Feb. 1, the same demonstrations repeated themselves in both of Lithuania’s biggest cities.

Sileika decided to drop serious charges against Andrius Usas. The charges of sexual rape of a three-year-old girl were changed to charges of sexual depravation. The case, with those charges, will be sent to the court. The accused can get up to 13 years imprisonment for charges of child rape and only up to two years imprisonment for charges of sexual depravation.

This story reached its climax on Oct. 5, 2009 when, at 8:30 a.m., a black Mercedes-Benz owned and driven by Kaunas District Court Judge Jonas Furmanavicius, 47, was hit slightly by a white Volkswagen Transporter van as the judge was pulling out of his yard. When Furmanavicius got out of his car, he was shot several times in his stomach, and one close-range final ‘control’ shot into his head. The killer was a man who came out of the Volkswagen Transporter. The murderer escaped with this white van. Four hours later, the body of Violeta Naruseviciene, 29, was found near her house by her eight-year-old daughter, who had come home from school. Naruseviciene was shot dead with four shots between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. A Beretta pistol was found near her body. The pistol was registered under Drasius Kedys’ name.

Kedys, 37, is hiding now and is the main suspect in the double murder case. He and his former girlfriend, Laima Stankunaite, now 23, had a legal battle over their daughter, who is now five years old. Three years ago, Kedys took his daughter from kindergarten without Stankunaite’s permission and refused to return her to Stankunaite. Later, a court in Kaunas stated that Kedys has better material conditions than Stankunaite for taking care of his daughter and he was entitled to live with his daughter. Kedys could have good legal advice at home because his sister, Neringa Venckiene, is a judge (working in the same office as the murdered Furmanavicius) and her husband, Aidas Venckus, is a famous lawyer who was defending the Kedys case in court. In 2006, upon the recommendation of the Kaunas child welfare agency, Stankunaite contacted Usas. Usas assisted Stankunaite in the courts and successfully helped her to regain custody of her daughter from Kedys. However, some months later, Stankunaite decided to return her daughter to Kedys and signed a peace deal with him.

In Nov. 2008, Kedys handed to Kaunas prosecutors a complaint about the sexual exploitation of his daughter. Kedys started his Web site, where he placed his own home-made video statements by his daughter. Kedys was accusing Furmanavicius, Usas, and a man only named as Aidas of participating in pedophiliac orgies with his daughter and then seven-year-old daughter of Stankunaite’s sister Naruseviciene. He was accusing Stankunaite and Naruseviciene of receiving money from pedophiles in exchange for sex with their daughters. Furmanavicius, Usas, Stankunaite and Naruseviciene handed their complaints to prosecutors describing Kedys’ statements as defamation. Usas now demands 1 million litas (290,000 euros) from Kedys. Usas is a businessman and former aide to former Parliament Chairman Viktoras Muntianas of the Civic Democracy Party, which during the last parliamentary election of 2008 won no seats in parliament. Usas left the party. A month ago, Lithuanian prosecutors, in cooperation with British police, questioned one of Kedys most recent girlfriends, who moved to live to London, but they found no traces of Kedys there.

On Jan. 28, President Dalia Grybauskaite met with Prosecutor General Algimantas Valantinas to discuss the case. There was plenty of media speculation about Valantinas’ possible resignation from this post on that day because six days earlier the parliament passed a resolution expressing its dissatisfaction with the slow work of prosecutors during the first months of the investigation of the alleged pedophilia case. However, after the three-hour-long meeting, Linas Balsys, spokesman for Grybauskaite, stated that the president is satisfied with Valantinas’ work.

On Jan. 29, Gintautas Stalnionis, spokesman of the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that the investigation against Stankunaite, Naruseviciene and Furmanacius has stopped. “The investigation against them is ceased because no criminal activity was committed,” Stalnionis said during a briefing in the Prosecutor General Office. He also announced that the charges against Usas have changed. On the same day, Venckiene, Kedys’ sister, stated to Lietuvos Rytas TV that Usas will probably get only some 2,000 litas’ fine as the result of the approaching process in court. Now she has custody of the daughter of Kedys and Stankunaite. However, Stankunaite speaks about possible legal proceedings to return her daughter into her custody.

According to information from the daily Lietuvos Rytas, prosecutor Sileika wanted to drop all charges against Usas on the basis of lack of evidence in the case, but leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office stopped him because of fear of possible public protests.

The case has been in the news on Lithuanian TV channels since the middle of last year. Every Wednesday since October 2009, during the evening’s prime time, competing TV stations LNK and TV3 broadcast their investigative programs on the Kedys case. They can be called investigative with some reservation because LNK’s Wednesday show categorically supports the camp of Usas and Stankunaite, while the TV3 program categorically supports the camp of Kedys and Venckiene. LNK also has other weekly programs which categorically support Kedys’ camp. All programs are very emotional - no wonder that after the Prosecutor General Office’s statement of Jan. 29, people went out to the street to protest.

The posters read as follows: “Stop pedophiles! How much of Drasius is in you?” Kedys’ first name “Drasius” is made from Lithuanian word “drasa,” which means “courage.”
Kedys was elected Lithuania’s No. 2 person of the year for 2009 according to public research conducted by Baltijos Tyrimai. Only Grybauskaite left him behind, according to this popularity rating.
According to Lithuanian historian Tomas Balkelis of University College Dublin, it would be wrong to describe Kedys as a “social bandit,” similar to Billy the Kid. “This emerging legend is a response to ethical tension, not a social one. Anyway, it demonstrates the big disappointment [of Lithuanian society] in the current ruling elite,” Balkelis told the weekly Atgimimas.

Ruta Janutiene, author of LNK TV’s Paskutine Instancija investigative journalism program, states that prosecutors were not doing enough to gather evidence during the first month after Kedys handed to Kaunas prosecutors a complaint about the sexual exploitation of his daughter. According to Stasys Sedbaras, Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats MP and chairman of the parliament’s Law and Order Committee, it is important for prosecutors to act quickly in such cases, otherwise, perspectives of such cases become misty.

On Jan. 27, the Eurobarometer survey was presented at the premises of the representation of the European Commission in Vilnius. Only 15 percent of Lithuanians trust their law and order institutions while the average figure across the entire EU is 43 percent. “There is no other EU country where people trust less law and order institutions than in Lithuania. It is probably related to the alleged pedophilia scandal,” said sociologist Mindaugas Degutis during the presentation of the survey.