Slezevicius wins victory against Lithuanian state

  • 2001-11-22
  • BNS
VILNIUS - Former Lithuanian Prime Minister Adolfas Slezevicius is celebrating victory after winning a case against the state of Lithuania at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

As the court ruled in Slezevicius' favor, it awarded him the equivalent of $7,500 in damages, plus another $17,500 for legal fees. The former PM had asked for $250,000 in damages and a further $70,000 to cover his attorneys' fees. A panel of seven judges, including Pranas Kuris from Lithuania, heard Slezevicius' suit behind closed doors on Oct. 23.

Lithuania's prosecutor general brought charges against Slezevicius in 1996 after a scandal involving his finances at the end of 1995. While still prime minister, Slezevicius withdrew personal deposits worth $33,750 in the Stock Innovation Bank several days before it folded, leaving the rest of its depositors holding the bag. There were suspicions that a contract was falsified with the knowledge of bank President Arturas Balkevicius to allow Slezevicius significantly more interest on his deposits than was warranted. Slezevicius was charged with fraud, falsifying documents and abuse of office.

Vilnius District Court held about a dozen hearings into the case over a three-year period. The court twice sent the case back to investigators for clarification and even brought aspects of it to the attention of the country's Constitutional Court.

After more than four years of going nowhere, the case was dropped on April 18, 2000, a month after the former prime minister's suit reached Strasbourg.

The heavily-backlogged Court of Human Rights managed to deal with Slezevicius' suit in record time, six months. By fall 2001 it was heard, jumping the queue of six other cases that have been brought against the Lithuanian state.

It could be that the nature of Slezevicius' complaint, namely that he failed to get a speedy trial in Lithuania, moved the court to try it quickly. The court has been known to try such cases more swiftly than others.

Even so, this does not explain away his victory. The Strasbourg court can take up to eight years to try a complicated case.

Slezevicius' case against the Lithuanian state was considered exceptional by the court in Strasbourg in that it never went to trial in Lithuania over the four years charges were pending. Lithuanian prosecutors had not even managed to define charges.