On April 28, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, started examining the lawsuit initiated by Lithuania’s ousted President Rolandas Paksas over the alleged conspiracy of political groups against him while he was president in 2003-2004, and of his incapacitation of the right to defense, and an impartial and fair trail. The Strasbourg Court of Human Rights examines cases where an applicant cannot receive justice in his or her own country. In the case of Paksas, the defendant is the Lithuanian government, represented by its four-member legal team. This was one of those rare cases when the lawsuit was deliberated by the Court’s Grand Chamber, thus signifying its importance and increased public interest.
Plaintiff Paksas, represented by Austrian attorney Eugenius Salpius, asserted that, according to the existing Human Rights laws, no individual, under any circumstance, should be denied the right to be elected to public office or other positions within the government which require taking an oath of office. On the other hand, Salpius pointed out that no person should be stripped of rights to elect someone, criminal record-free, to such government institutions. The defendant, the Lithuanian government, argued that the passed legal acts against Paksas do not contradict European human rights or the Convention of Fundamental Freedoms Protection.
It is expected that the Court will announce its verdict within three months from the hearing. The Baltic Times spoke with Rolandas Paksas after the court hearing.
What will change if you hear the Court’s verdict as positive?
I will accept it and continue working at Daukantas 3 [the office of the Lithuanian president]. No, I am just kidding. To tell the truth, my case is not against the Lithuanian state. It is against the then-existing political and other clans that ousted me lawlessly. I am looking forward to reinstating righteousness and truth and, ultimately, my constitutional rights. By this I mean re-establishment of my constitutional right to be elected and participate in Lithuanian elections. I pursue this without anger and revenge. More importantly, I have no criminal record. I want everyone to think about one thing. As a member of the European Parliament, I vote for the legislation that is in effect in the entire European Union, including Lithuania. I head the third largest party in Lithuania, which is not outlawed. Paradoxically, however, I am stripped of the right to represent our constituents in the Lithuanian Seimas. I do not pose a threat to Lithuania, but certain clans that overthrew me 6 years ago are desperate not to let me back to political life in Lithuania. Besides reinstating my civil and constitutional rights, a positive ruling would be a huge personal moral relief for my family and I, as we have endured an immeasurable amount of besmirching.
Have your evaluations, looking back at the impeachment procedures in 2003-2004, changed?
Every politician, particularly a new president that takes his or her office without strong back-up, should be well aware of the fact that the capability to perform the duties are largely affected, not that much by his or her political will and determination, as much as by a rather invisible conjuncture and clans. When I assumed office, I was rather young and inexperienced, somebody who was about to start his activity from a blank page. No one stood behind my back then. It meant I was not related to any of a then-existing clan. It meant I had little or no understanding whatsoever how the processes evolve. Paradoxically, when you do not know them, you are free. It is the knowledge of them that constrains you. I very clearly realize this six years after the takeover.
Do you still call it a “coup d’etat?” You have to admit that you have never, though, pinpointed its concrete organizers and principals, thus blurring the whole case and making it less believable.
Looking from a six-year perspective, I can definitely tell that it was a coup d’etat. However, it was not a military coup, but a typical takeover. The kind of takeovers which are being plotted in many states. I am speaking about not only the military coups in Latin America and Africa. For example, even much closer, in Turkey, which is seeking EU membership, four takeovers have taken place since 1960. Putting aside all emotions, cliches and stereotypes earnestly promulgated by the media, one can see that all initial accusations that led to my ousting have collapsed by now.
So can you now name those parties, names and entities that you keep calling “clans” implicated in your ousting?
Well, I cannot do this right now. I hope that some day a thorough investigation, according to the Criminal Penalty Code on the grounds of state takeover will be started, and all those names and parties implicated in it will be named.
Is it not the right moment to do this now, when the public interest in your case is high?
Those who followed the developments of the events do not need pinpointing. If you look through the papers back in 2003-2004, you will notice many meaningful coincidences. The ominous events followed one another. When I became the president of the Republic of Lithuania in 2003, I declared that one of my first tasks would be the reorganization of Lithuania’s State Security Department. I issued a decree aimed at replacing the then head of the department, Laurinkus, by a man who had not been entangled in the ruling clans. As I see it now, this was my biggest blunder, which I attribute to my inexperience. However, I do not regret it, as it was aimed at dismantling the clans. In just a few days after my issued decree on the appointment, the then State Security Department chief, Laurinkus, together with then-Chairman of Parliament, Paulauskas, held an emergency meeting over threats to Lithuanian national security.
Ok, we know the further developments, which resulted in your ousting. However, you should admit that the case presented to Seimas and, eventually, to the Constitutional Court of Lithuania was substantiated. Let me just remind you the infringements you were accused of. Granting Lithuanian citizenship to Borisovas, a Russian citizen who was the biggest financial contributor to your presidential campaign, letting him personally know that law enforcement agencies had launched an investigation against him, including eavesdropping, and trying to affect the owners of a private company to dispose of their shares for the sake of your close ally.
How could I be blamed for the granting of citizenship to Borisovas if the president, according to the laws, only signs the decree? The Ministry of the Interior was to blame for enlisting Borisovas. I just symbolically signed the list. When I found out about, my then-senior advisor’s transgressions related to these matters, I immediately fired him. However, the plot was to oust me, thus, primarily charging and accusing me of all possible faults. No criminal accusations have ever been brought against me; however, Laurinkus’ secret certificate presented to Seimas unfoundedly accused me of all possible transgressions. Even the Constitutional Court was very biased in its ruling, as it was later proved that its chairman, Kuris, secretively had met with some leaders of the impeachment movement.
Do you still keep in touch with Borisovas?
No, I do not.
If the Court speaks for reinstating your electoral rights, will you participate in the upcoming presidential election?
I do not want to speak about that yet. Life itself will determine it.
However, is it adequate to think that the so-called clans, which you do not name, instigated your removal just because of your attempts to shuffle the then-leadership of the State Security Department?
Well, the whole plot was not only about that. When I was elected as the country’s leader, I exuberantly started re-reviewing the resonant cases, such as the case of the murder of Abromavicius, the blast of the bridge over the Brazuole rivulet, the scrutiny of the sale of “Mazeikiu nafta” to the American company “Williams.” All threads to the answers lead to one political party.
Which one? Do you mean the Homeland Union and Christian Democratic Party, which was ruling during the resonant events?
As I said before, I do not want to pinpoint the party and the people right now.
It seems that you are constantly bringing up new culprits in your so-called overthrow case. Lately, you have been alleging that your ousting was largely due to not letting the building of a CIA prison in Lithuania. However, that factor came out only recently, when the CIA prison scandal broke.
When the United States makes certain CIA archives public, many interesting things will come out. It is quite normal that the information I possessed 6 years ago, and now, is quite different. When I took my office, I stood strongly against any CIA prison building in Lithuania. As I see it from today’s perspective, this might have been a very significant factor in my overthrow.
In the sense of fighting the so-called statesmen, high-ranking State officials that shape policies in the country and which you blame for your overthrow, Grybauskaite, differently from you, seems to have not given in to their influence.
Once again I want to stress the impact of the often invisible statesmen, who usurp power though the different structures of the power pyramid, politicians, mass media and business structures, and influence all state processes. Vaclov Havel, former Czech president, was the first one to discern the threats deriving from the clans of this kind of statesmen. All heads of State have to learn about my overthrow, and to draw conclusions from it. Bearing in mind Grybauskaite, she has to perceive that she is very vulnerable to the clans. She is and will remain their target. If she does not acknowledge the threats and will not give in to their influence and seek radical changes, she, like me, can endure real threats and challenges to her power. I am glad to see that Grybauskaite uses much of the rhetoric, actions and the program I declared and was about to implement.
You seem to have lost much weight. Is that due to your nervous breakdown related to the anticipation of the ruling, which could shift your political future in a completely different way?
(barely smiling) Do I look that bad? I am a Samogitian. In Samogitia, we have a good saying in this case: ‘The good rooster never gets fat.’ I am that rooster.