Estonian, Latvian security details linked to traffic death

  • 2002-03-07
  • Timothy Jacobs
RIGA - A 53-year-old Latvian man was killed in a car crash involving Estonian Foreign Minister Kriistina Ojuland's security detail near the town of Lilaste on Feb. 10. But news of the accident was made public only this week.

The Riga tabloid Vakara Zinas reported March 5 that Augusts Sirons was shot dead by men from the minister's escort because they believed that Sirons' car was a threat to the minister.

Janis Reiniks, the chief of Latvia's security police, denied the allegations, saying that Sirons was driving drunk when he ran into the escort car that was trailing the minister's car before hitting a tree 100 meters further down the road. He died at the scene.

"Forensic tests were done that showed clearly that the injuries were sustained in a road accident," said Reiniks, and he added that Sirons' blood alcohol content measured 0.31, which far exceeds the legal level of 0.04.

"It is already clear today that no guns were used. It would have been impossible for a shooting to have occurred because the escort was driving at a speed of 90 kilometers per hour and (Sirons') car was driving in the opposite direction," said Reiniks. "Everything happened so fast."

Security police spokeswoman Kristina Apse said that an investigation into the accident was underway and that it was being handled by the Latvian highway police. Earlier, Reiniks said that he was conducting an in-house investigation into the accident, the results of which would be made public soon.

According to Apse, the cause of Sirons' death was the collision that he had with the tree, not the initial collision with the escort car.

A spokesman for the Estonian Foreign Ministry said, "We know that an accident occurred with a vehicle from the Latvian escort, but we don't know all of the nuances of the incident."

He added that the Estonian Foreign Ministry knew nothing about any shooting during the incident.

The Latvian security police had no comment as to why they did not alert the media to the accident at the time that it happened.

According to the Interior Ministry, the security police will soon ask Vakara Zinas to retract some of the statements made in its article.

Edmunds Imsa, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, stands by the story. "The writers didn't make anything in the story up," he said. "They interviewed eye-witnesses to the accident."

He added that Latvian security police authorities should be commended for having "successfully kept the incident a secret for over a month."

Imsa said that, once the police have specified what they want withdrawn from the article, the newspaper would consider making the changes.