Past catches up with Adamsons

  • 2002-08-15
  • Steven C. Johnson, RIGA
Latvia's Central Election Commission announced that Social Democrat lawmaker Janis Adamsons had been disqualified from seeking reelection because of his pre-independence ties to the KGB.

The commission's eight-member council Aug. 7 voted 6-0, with one abstention and one member absent, to ban Adamsons, a former interior minister, for his service in the Soviet border guard from 1981-1992, which the commission says was under the aegis of the KGB.

Left-wing activist Tatjana Zhdanok was also struck from the election list of For Equal Rights for her involvement in the Communist Party.

Latvian law forbids those who worked for the KGB or other Soviet or foreign intelligence agencies from holding elected office. Members of the Com-munist Party after Jan. 13, 1991, are also ineligible.

Voters will elect a new Parlia-ment Oct. 5.

Rumors about Adamsons' involvement with the KGB, which he denies, have long hounded him in his public career, but previous attempts to revoke his election rights have failed.

Commission officials said that had changed thanks to a court ruling in 2000 that said Adamsons was indeed a member of the frontier guard, a unit of the Soviet border guard that Latvia's Documentation Center for Totalitarian Crimes claims was indeed part of the KGB.

"It's obvious that the border guards were always part of the KGB," said Indulis Zalite, director of the center. "They were one of four main directorates: intelligence, counter-intelligence, cryptography and border guards."

After the court ruling two years ago, Parliament had moved to dismiss Adamsons but a majority of the 100-member Saeima (Latvia's parliament) resfused to strip him of his mandate.

"The court judgment made the situation clear," said election commission spokeswoman Kris-tina Berzina. "The law only empowers us to strike someone from the list once a court rules that he was in fact in violation" of lustration laws.

Adamsons could not be reached for comment.

Zalite said he informed Parliament in the mid-1990s that Adamsons had served in the Soviet secret police but was told his information was not sufficient.

Adamsons was at the center of a political scandal two years ago that eventually led to the collapse of the government when he accused then-Prime Minister Andris Skele of involvement in a child pornography ring.

Prosecutors cleared Skele and then Justice Minister Valdis Birkavs of any wrongdoing and asked Parliament to lift Adamsons' legislative immunity so he could be tried for slander. Lawmakers refused.

Adamsons was first elected to the Saeima in 1993 and served as interior minister in the mid-1990s.

Zhdanok said she had petitioned the European Court for Human Rights to accept her challenge to the law.

Both Adamsons and Zhdanok have until Aug. 16 to appeal the ruling.