Justice delayed or justice denied? Lithuanian court postpones hearing on Algirdas Paleckis’ appeal

The hearing on the appeal of socialist leader and ex-diplomat Algirdas Paleckis has been postponed for the second time. He has been convicted on charges of ‘espionage on behalf of Russia’

January 21, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Algirdas Paleckis - Lithuania
A campaign poster in solidarity with Algirdas Paleckis.

On Thursday, January 20, the Lithuanian Court of Appeals postponed a hearing on the appeal of Lithuanian socialist leader, Algirdas Paleckis. In July 2021, a Lithuanian court had sentenced Paleckis, an ex-Lithuanian diplomat, columnist and former leader of the Socialist People’s Front, to six years imprisonment after finding him guilty on charges of espionage. Paleckis had filed an appeal against the judgment.  

The hearing on his appeal has been postponed twice now by the court, this time citing the judge’s illness. According to reports, the court has fixed March 15, 2022 as the next date for hearing the appeal. Paleckis was in prison from October 2018 but a court ordered his release in April 2020 and placed him under house arrest where he has remained since. Leftists and other progressive sections across the world have raised concern over the persecution faced by Paleckis and other left-wing activists in Lithuania.

The government in Lithuania arrested Paleckis in October 2018 on charges of intention to “arrange kidnappings of several Lithuanian prosecutors” and involvement in “espionage on behalf of Russia”. His supporters and several independent political observers claimed that he was the victim of a witch hunt by the right-wing forces in the country and targeted for his writings exposing the role of right-wing mercenaries in the death of Lithuanians during the anti-Soviet protests of 1991. 

The Soviet military was deployed around the Vilnius television center in January 1991 following unrest there, when 14 people were killed by gunfire. Lithuanian authorities accused the Soviet military of killing the demonstrators. However, Paleckis’ investigative reports suggested that snipers were placed on rooftops around the TV center, who may have shot and killed the 14 civilians.

According to reports, several activists who are campaigning for Paleckis’ freedom have also been subjected to persecution by the Lithuanian law enforcement bodies and intelligence agencies. In March 2020, the Lithuanian government, in an outrageous move, asked socialist leader Giedrius Grabauskas to undergo a psychiatric examination to prove his sanity. Grabauskas is the co-chairman of the Socialist People’s Front of Lithuania and has been active in campaigns against the glorification of Nazis and for raising awareness of their crimes. The Lithuanian government often cites ‘Russian aggression’ to justify its attacks on socialist and other people’s movements in the country.

Lithuanian social movement Dawn of Justice, founded by followers of Paleckis and other left-wing forces, stated on January 11 that his persecution is “the revenge of politically influential structures on one of the leaders of the Lithuanian opposition and his team for their social and anti-military criticism of the government. This is also a signal that this is the real opposition in Lithuania. And the pressure only made us stronger.”

It claimed that “almost all charges against Paleckis are based on classified confessions of Deimantas Bertuskas (a pedophile convicted by the court in 2021). However, from 2018, he began cooperating with the country’s security service, Department of State Security of Lithuania (DGB) in return on the promise of a reduced prison sentence.”

“The DGB has also misrepresented Paleckis’ interviews with Russian security officers – taken as part of his research for his book on the 1991 events in Vilnius – as evidence for Paleckis’ alleged connection with Russian secret services,” the movement added.