President Vejonis not to pardon convicted participant of 2009 riots

  • 2018-03-28
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - President Raimonds Vejonis will not respond to the appeals to pardon Ansis Ataols Berzins, who has been sentenced to a prison term in Latvia for his involvement in the January 13, 2009 riot in Riga, LETA has learned.

As reported, a picket will be staged in Riga Old City at noon today to demand Berzins’ release.

LETA was told at Riga City Council that Berzins’ supporters are organizing the picket with the aim to secure Berzins’ release from jail. Organizers expect around 50 people to participate in the picket.

Raimonds Vejonis to pardon songwriter and singer Ansis Ataols Berzins, who is a son of well-known Latvian poet and translator Uldis Berzins. They stressed that Berzins and his family had already suffered enough for his "emotional response to illegalities in the country" and that a real jail term was a punishment incommensurate to the man's offense.

"The recent developments - Berzins suffering a beating in the Czech prison and his health condition - call for a speedy decision [about his release]," they said in the letter to the Latvian president.

Berzins' lawyer Janis Mucenieks said that his client had also applied for the presidential pardon himself. Right now it is important that Berzins received quality medical treatment for the knee injury sustained in the Czech jail therefore the requests for appropriate medical examinations have been submitted to the Latvian Prison Administration, the lawyer said.

As reported, Berzins was convicted in Latvia for participation in the January 13, 2009, riot in Riga but fled the country to avoid serving his sentence of one year and eight months which took effect in February 2016 after the Riga Regional Court rejected Berzins' appeal against the guilty verdict and he was supposed to go to jail. Berzins claimed that he was seeking political asylum in the Czech Republic.

During an online news conference via Skype in July 2016, Berzins announced that he felt let down by the Latvian state. As a young boy, he had actively participated in the drive for Latvia's independence but now the Latvian authorities want to put him in jail, he complained. However, he did not deny that he had been throwing cobblestones at the Latvian parliament building during the riot.

Berzins was detained and jailed in the Czech Republic in spring 2017. In February 2018, Berzins' lawyer said that Berzins had been beaten up by the Czech jail wardens. On March 13, 2018, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic as the final instance court rejected Berzins' appeal against his extradition to Latvia. On March 23, he got sent back to Latvia and was put in jail.

On January 13, 2009, a peaceful rally turned into a riot and over 50 rioters have been convicted, although most got off with community service and only nine were given real jail terms. The conditional sentence given to Berzins by the court became a real jail term after the man failed to register with the State Probation Service which was one of the conditions of his conditional sentence.