VILNIUS - On Aug. 2, the Vilnius Court of Appeals decided to release Egle Kusaite, the 21-year old Lithuanian young woman and Muslim convert, from prison stating that she did not commit a real crime, is unlikely to hide, and, although remaining faithful to Islam, renounced her radical views. Therefore, she can wait for her trial, which can give her a life sentence, being free. Judge Viktoras Kazys also stated that the Lithuanian State Security Department acted very professionally, preventing Kusaite from traveling to Moscow. The lower court’s decision of July 22, to prolong Kusaite’s pre-trial imprisonment for two months, became invalid.
This young woman from Klaipeda was arrested by the Lithuanian State Security Department on suspicions that she, a possible 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 Oct. 24, had constant Internet and phone contacts with Chechens in Russia. Kusaite, when she was 17 years old, left for Germany where she lived for a year in a small town with the Chechens and converted to Islam.
“Now I refute my thoughts, expressed via the Internet, about preparation for a terrorist act – such thoughts were provoked by officers of the State Security Department,” Kusaite said in court on Aug. 2. She also stated that she ordered an electronic book, with instructions on how to make explosives, for a friend, not for herself.
Kusaite and her mother, Virginija Kusiene, were very happy with the decision of the Vilnius Court of Appeals. “It is a nice surprise,” Kusiene said.
“I didn’t expect that it could be a fair court in Lithuania,” Kusaite said, adding that she will stay at home with her mother. “I’ll not even put my nose outside,” Kusaite said.
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 Kusaite for the mission of suicide bomber in Russia. Prosecutor Mindaugas Duda, who is now in charge of Kusaite’s case, expressed his fear that now Kusaite can easily co-ordinate her future statements with those two Chechens via Magmadovs’ relatives.
“They are wonderful people. They are in prison by mistake. It is also partially my fault,” Kusaite said about the Magmadovs adding that they are not Wahabis, i.e. Islamist fundamentalists.
Duda said that he (although he did not change his opinion that Kusaite should be kept in prison until her trial) respects the decision of Judge Kazys. On Aug. 5, Duda issued a ban for Kusaite to leave Lithuania before her trial. Her ID documents have been taken from her and she will need to register with the police periodically.
Nijole Sadunaite, Alfonsas Svarinskas and Robertas Grigas, who were Soviet-era political prisoners, as well as Rytas Kupcinskas, MP of the ruling Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, showed up in the Court of Appeals to give moral support to Kusaite. They are especially unhappy with the Lithuanian State Security Department’s co-operation with the Russian Federal Security Service (successor to the notorious KGB) in Kusaite’s case. However, the atmosphere in the court was rather friendly – Sadunaite even had a chat with Duda in the courtroom.
Duda refused to tell journalists about the proof which he has against Kusaite. Last week, the magazine Veidas published an article by Audrius Baciulis, political analyst and former spokesman for Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in 1999-2000, where he states that prosecutors have firm video and audio proof justifying their accusations against Kusaite. The future trial will show how firm they are.
One of two female lawyers representing Kusaite is Ingrida Botyriene. She is also the lawyer of Michael Campbell in another case related to alleged terrorism. Campbell, 36, was arrested in Lithuania 18 months ago after allegedly trying to buy weapons from an intelligence officer posing as an international arms dealer. His arrest followed an operation involving the British and Lithuanian intelligence agencies. It seems that situation was made up and nobody in Lithuania had any real intention to sell guns to that naive Irish Catholic soul. Michael’s brother, Liam, is believed to be a senior Real IRA member, which opposes British rule in Northern Ireland. The Lithuanian authorities are seeking his extradition from Northern Ireland.
The Real IRA was set up in 1997 after the mainstream IRA declared a ceasefire. The Real IRA has claimed responsibility for a number of serious attacks, including the murder of two British soldiers in Northern Ireland in March. During the Vilnius court hearing of Aug. 3, Botyriene made a request for Campbell to be released on bail, but no positive response from the court has yet been made on this request - the process is continuing.