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Human rights defender: Latvian authorities have resumed persecutions of antifascists

Aleksandr Gaponenko. Photo: EADaily

Aleksandr Gaponenko, a Latvian human rights defender, public figure, the head of the Congress of Non-Citizens, has told an EADaily correspondent that the Latvian authorities have launched another round of persecutions of local antifascists.  Gaponenko is sure that the reason is their aspiration to express protest against the march of Waffen SS along Riga center on March 16.

“The premiership of Māris Kučinskis started with persecutions of antifascists. Every year on March 16, in Latvia they commemorate the fighters of the Latvian Legion Waffen SS and organize commemorative events involving parliamentarians and other high-ranking officials.  Hundreds of supporters of the Nazi ideas march on that day in Riga under state flags and lay wreaths at the Freedom Monument. Latvian antifascists hold protests on the same day against glorification of Nazism and commemorate the tens of thousands that fell victim to the Legion SS. Often Police do not object to the protests, though they chose the place, time and format of the protest actions. “On November 16 2015, Latvian Antifascists Committee applied to the Riga Duma beforehand for the next year’s protest action near the Freedom Monument,” Gaponenko said. 

“On December 7, the National-Liberal government of Laimdota Straujuma resigned. The position of national radicals has strengthened in newly formed coalition. The national radical pressed Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis who is congenial to them and he charged his officers to take the antifascists in hand and not to let them interrupt glorification of Nazi ideas. On December 14 2015, the Criminal Police instituted a criminal case Nr.11 518 023 815 against the antifascists Joseph Koren, Eduard Goncharov, Alexey Sharipov, and Oleg Gotsulyak who had applied for a permission to hold a protest action. They are charged with Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Latvia – for forging their own signatures under the application. The forged signatures were allegedly identified by the police yet on November 16 2015 i.e. immediately after the application for the permission to hold the protest action was filed. Police officers identified the forged signatures at a glance. No examination was needed. They did not even take into account the fact that the applicants submitted their passports when signing the application,” Gaponenko said sarcastically.

“However, they have shelved that criminal case for a long time waiting for a favorable political situation. On February 11 2016, Seima approved the government headed by Māris Kučinskis. On that very day, antifascists were summoned to the Criminal Police over forgery of their signatures. Actually, the first thing Māris Kučinskis did as prime minister was to order the interior minister to launch criminal proceedings against antifascists for opposing glorification of Nazism in Latvia. Judging by the first actions of the Criminal Police investigators during interrogations, the criminal case may grow into a guilty verdict and trial,” the human rights defender said for conclusion.

Earlier, new Prime Minister Māris Kučinskis promised to cancel the ex-prime minister Laimdota Straujuma’s order saying that none of the Cabinet members has a right to participate in the annual marches in honor of the Legion Waffenn SS in Riga on March 16 upon pain of immediate dismissal. In an interview with Latvian Radio, the candidate for the prime minister said if anyone of the ministers wants to participate in the events timed to the so-called “Latvian Legion Day,” he is free to do it requesting to be excused from work beforehand. “Talks will be held with ministers over the issue,” the politician said.

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