Controversy over alleged young female Islamist terrorist

  • 2010-07-28
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

TERRORIST?: Egle Kusaite.

VILNIUS - Egle Kusaite, the 21-year-old Lithuanian young woman and Muslim convert, will stay locked in the Vilnius Lukiskes Prison, stated the Vilnius court on July 22. It took two sittings, on July 20 and July 22, for the Vilnius court to decide to prolong Kusaite’s pre-trial imprisonment for two months, on the basis that Kusaite can try to hide if released before her trial because she has the possibility of receiving a sentence of life imprisonment for planning her suicide bombing in Russia.

This young woman from Klaipeda was arrested by the Lithuanian State Security Department on suspicions that she, as a suicide bomber, was ready to travel to some military facility in Russia where Russian troops, which took part in the war in Chechnya, are stationed. According to prosecutors, Kusaite, who has been in Vilnius’ Lukiskes Prison since October, had constant Internet and phone contacts with Islamists in Russia, though Algirdas Grublys, former chief of the State Security Department of Klaipeda region, told Lithuanian public TV that he does not believe in the terrorist intentions of Kusaite.
Kusaite, when she was 17 years old, left for Germany where she lived for a year in a small town with Chechens. Then her mother, Virginija Kusiene, appealed to the State Security Department asking them to find her daughter, who had left home in Klaipeda and disappeared.

Later, Kusaite returned to Klaipeda and, according to Kusiene, lived in a flat rented with tax-payers’ money by the Lithuanian State Security Department and was closely observed by Lithuanian security agents pretending to be Muslim fundamentalists. Kusiene said during the breaks in the court hearings that she asked the State Security Department to save her daughter from the influence of radical Islamists, but it turned out that those radical Islamists, which surrendered her daughter in Klaipeda, were agents of the State Security Department. Kusiene said that the Lithuanian and Russian security services made up the case of her daughter and, during one of the interrogations, only the three Russian agents took part. “She is imprisoned without any guilt,” Kusiene said during a spontaneous briefing in the court after the decision to prolong her daughter’s imprisonment was announced. Kusiene also kept stating that all Kusaite’s confessions about her intention to become a suicide bomber were obtained using physical and psychological pressure.

On July 20, the public in the courtroom had the possibility to ask Kusaite about the Russians and the beatings. She confirmed her mother’s statements, giving one-word-answers. Kusaite said that three Russian security agents were beating her in the premises of the Lithuanian State Security Department. The State Security Department categorically denies such accusations. Prosecutor Justas Laucius, who was in charge of Kusaite’s interrogations and who on July 20 asked for the three-month-prolongation of Kusaite’s detention, stated that such accusations are false and they are the tactics of the defense of Kusaite.

On July 14, Leonidas Donskis, member of the European Parliament, Darius Kuolys, director of the Civil Society Institute, and Henrikas Mickevicius, director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, sent an open letter to Prosecutor General Darius Valys requesting removal of prosecutor Laucius from investigation of the case, and for an internal investigation into his activities. These three human rights defenders demanded charges against Prosecutor Laucius to be brought in case some violations of human rights standards or professional ethics were found. They also asked Valys to investigate the circumstances of the interrogation of Kusaite by the Russian Federal Security Service, including the alleged human rights violations.

Earlier, in another open letter (to the head of the State Security Department), Donskis, Kuolys and Mickevicius, in the form of questions suggested that the State Security Department was deeply involved in Kusaite’s life by renting her a flat, paying for her phone calls and even possibly inspiring her to go on a suicide bomber mission to Egypt. On July 10, Prosecutor Laucius denied Mickevicius a meeting with the terrorist suspect. In his response to the meeting request, Laucius eliminated any possibility to meet with the suspect, stating that “these actions are regarded as attempts to interfere with the prosecutors’ professional activities and are directly prohibited by law.”

On July 20, Laucius expressed his anger with human rights activists by launching a verbal attack on them during the briefing in the Vilnius court. “Statements by some persons that it is possible to disregard human rights during pre-trial investigation in Lithuania are incompatible with principles of democratic society and they have signs of crimes and therefore, they should be evaluated from the point of view of law,” Laucius said.

After such a statement, Prosecutor General Valys launched an investigation into Laucius’ public statements and his refusal to allow a meeting of Kusaite with Mickevicius, and to establish whether these actions correspond to the norms of the code of ethics of prosecutors. On July 22, Laucius did not appear in court. He was replaced by Prosecutor Nijole Frolova. She is known as the prosecutor who investigated Kusaite’s accusations that the Russians were beating her during the interrogation. Frolova did not find any proof for Kusaite’s accusations. On June 11, Algimantas Kliunka, chief prosecutor of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Organized Crime and Corruption Prevention Department, during his press conference in the parliament, said that the representatives from Russia participated in the interrogations as observers and no physical violence was used.

The process in the Vilnius court, which took place on July 20 and July 22, was attended by famous Soviet-era anti-Soviet dissidents and former political prisoners: Antanas Terleckas, Gintautas Iesmantas, Catholic nun Nijole Sadunaite (U.S. President Ronald Reagan described her as the “Lithuanian Joan of Arc”), Catholic priest Alfonsas Svarinskas as well as Robertas Grigas, Catholic priest and director general of the Catholic charity organization Caritas. All of them came to show their concern over the trial, which they say can be unjust. Earlier, Grigas also got the prosecutors’ refusal to meet Kusaite and he is now corresponding with her by mail.

The court hearings were also attended by Aminat Saiyeva, head of the pro-independence Chechen Information Center in Lithuania, as well as activists of the Drasius Kedys movement. Last week, members of this movement, who consider themselves as fighters against the state elite clan of pedophiles started a hunger strike in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office demanding investigation into the mysterious death of Kedys. Kedys’ mother stated that she considers asking for exhumation of her son’s body for proper investigation of his death.
During the process, Kusaite was in a very jolly mood and kept smiling to numerous TV and photo cameras. She had such an opportunity because on July 20, Judge Teresele Kazlauskiene rejected Prosecutor Laucius’ demand to organize this process in the Vilnius court behind closed doors.

“My statements regarding Magmadovs were deformed in a very ugly way!” Kusaite shouted to those who gathered in the court. On Jan. 19, two Chechens, 31-year old Apti Magmadov and his 22-year old sister Aishat Magmadova, were arrested in the Moscow region by the Russian Federal Security Service on suspicion of recruiting future suicide bombers from the Baltic states. The mother of Aishat, via her lawyer in Lithuania (as well as the mother of Egle), denies any accusations and states that Aishat and Egle were just Internet friends “talking about girlish stuff.” The computer for such talks was bought for Egle by the State Security Department, according to Kusiene. Egle was planning to visit Aishat in Russia, though this visit did not include any plans of suicide bombing, according to the mothers of both young women.

The name of Egle Kusaite became known in Lithuania in April when the daily Lietuvos Rytas reported that on the eve of the then recent terror acts in Moscow, a resident of Klaipeda, named Egle, 20, was detained at the Vilnius International Airport. In her luggage plans of the Moscow metro and data about explosive mechanisms and the use thereof were found.

According to the daily, Lithuanian state security agents checked the version of the report, according to which a citizen of Lithuania was supposed to be among the female suicide-bombers who blew themselves up on March 29 in the Moscow metro. Also, it was written that Egle was a friend of some Chechen who lived in Klaipeda. Later he went home to Chechnya and perished there. Lietuvos Rytas is suspected by some human rights defenders of publishing PR leaks from the State Security Department from time to time. Similar information about Kusaite’s terrorist intentions in the Moscow metro were then simultaneously published also by numerous newspapers and Internet sites in Russia.
The fact that later prosecutors stated that Kusaite planned to go by bus, not plane, and that she planned to bomb a military base in Russia, not the metro, raises a lot of questions.

The North Caucasus’ Islamists are closely observing Kusaite’s case, and their version of the events in the Vilnius court can be found here:

Yulia Latynina, a famous Russian journalist, critic of the current authoritarian Russian regime as well as a specialist on Russia’s North Caucasus (she is even able to distinguish accents of various ethnic groups of that region), repeated many times in her Saturday lectures on radio Ekho Moskvy that Russia’s Soviet-era dissidents (as well as Amnesty International) are naive in seeing a victim of the Kremlin’s regime (or a victim of George W. Bush) in every accused Islamist terrorist for whom cheating a non-Muslim is a matter of honor (according to Latynina). On the other hand, according to human rights defenders, it seems that in Kusaite’s case, the State Security Department’s involvement in her life was rather heavy and, according to Mickevicius, the secret service could probably find a way to stop some possible radical tendencies in her head avoiding ruining her life by long-term imprisonment.

“Everything is in the hands of God!” shouted Kusaite leaving the Vilnius court under police escort on July 22. It remains to be seen if Kusaite was some kind of State Security agent and manipulator who came out of her sponsors’ control (Kusiene does not agree with such a version), or some very naive young woman and a victim of the State Security’s anti-terrorism unit which, as Grigas suggested, wanted to justify the unit’s existence by creating a case out of nothing. At the moment the only thing that is clear is the case is quite unclear.