Bad­mouthing against leg­endary par­ti­san costs Klaipėda politi­cian a Coun­cil seat

Baltic News Network - - News -

Where is the del­i­cate boundary be­tween free­dom of speech and out­right calumny? A mem­ber of Klaipėda City Coun­cil, Vi­aceslav Ti­tov, paid a costly price for what court has found to be slan­der.

The Lithua­nian Supreme Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court (LSAC) ruled on Mon­day, Novem­ber 26, that Ti­tov grossly breached the oath when he said that Lithua­nian par­ti­san com­man­der Adol­fas Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas was re­spon­si­ble for the killing of 8,000 in­no­cent civil­ians.

Ti­tov made his com­ments about Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas dur­ing a dis­cus­sion on com­mem­o­rat­ing his mem­ory in Klaipėda by putting a me­mo­rial plaque on the wall of Klaipėda Univer­sity last July.

«Do you re­ally think it’s worth hon­our­ing a per­son at whose ini­tia­tive around 8,000 peace­ful res­i­dents and chil­dren were killed? I be­lieve there’s no place for com­mem­o­rat­ing such peo­ple in Klaipėda,» Ti­tov said. He also claimed Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas per­son­ally is­sued death sen­tences. Ti­tov also posted a sim­i­lar post on Face­book.

The out­landish provoca­tive re­marks led to a strong back­lash from Klaipėda com­mu­ni­ties, with the ma­jor­ity con­demn­ing the politi­cian. Fol­low­ing the court rul­ing, Lithua­nia’s Cen­tral Elec­toral Com­mis­sion stripped Ti­tov off his coun­cil­lor’s man­date at his own re­quest. Nine mem­bers of the com­mis­sion voted in favour of ac­cept­ing his res­ig­na­tion and one ab­stained.

The de­ci­sion comes two days be­fore the Klaipėda City Coun­cil’s planned vote on re­vok­ing Ti­tov of his man­date.

As Ti­tov handed in his res­ig­na­tion shortly be­fore the com­mis­sion’s sit­ting, the draft pro­posal was taken off of the Klaipėda City Coun­cil agenda.

Ap­proached by BNN, the em­bat­tled Klaipė­dian re­mained de­fi­ant and, hav­ing ex­hausted his le­gal de­fence mea­sures in Lithua­nia – the LSAC rul­ing is un­ques­tion­able, Ti­tov plans to seek jus­tice in the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights in Stras­bourg. «As I am con­vinced that my Con­sti­tu­tional right en­ti­tling me to free­dom of speech has been grossly vi­o­lated, I am hir­ing my lawyers who will file a law­suit against state of Lithua­nia the Stras­bourg Court,» he said. «The Court has un­for­tu­nately given in the pres­sure that the me­dia has gen­er­ated fol­low­ing my state­ments. It is very sad, but our courts to­day can­not pro­tect ci­ti­zens’ Con­sti­tu­tional rights. The Court’s rul­ing is po­lit­i­cal not ju­di­cial,» Ti­tov told BNN. The Klaipeda coun­cil­lor, who rep­re­sents the Union of Rus­sians in Lithua­nia, said the rul­ing came as a sur­prise to him.

«I was 99.99 per­cent sure I was go­ing to win,» he said.

The judg­ment opened the way for im­peach­ing Ti­tov, two-thirds ma­jor­ity of all the mem­bers of the port city’s coun­cil was needed to strip him of his man­date. Vy­tau­tas Grubli­auskas, mayor of Lithua­nia’s port of Klaipėda, said he had col­lected the nec­es­sary num­ber of sig­na­tures to launch im­peach­ment pro­ceed­ings against Ti­tov, who re­signed from the Coun­cil af­ter hear­ing the un­favourable court rul­ing. Elected in 2015 to the Klaipėda City Coun­cil on the ticket of the Union of Rus­sians in Lithua­nia, Ti­tov plans to run in next March’s mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions with a pub­lic elec­tion com­mit­tee.

«The high­est court will take place dur­ing the elec­tions on Mach 3,» he added When in court, Ti­tov ar­gued that he prop­erly rep­re­sented his vot­ers when he ac­cused Lithua­nian par­ti­san com­man­der Adol­fas Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas of killing in­no­cent civil­ians. «In my opin­ion, I did not breach the oath. I be­lieve that I rep­re­sented my vot­ers in an hon­est and proper way,» he em­pha­sised. Ti­tov said he was sim­ply do­ing his job by rais­ing ques­tions about the par­ti­san com­man­der.

«If my state­ments of­fended any­one, I do apol­o­gize, be­cause I did not mean to of­fend any­one. I just wanted to go deeper into the mat­ter and dis­cuss it,» he said.

The coun­cilor said he had the right to ex­press an opin­ion that did not match the state’s of­fi­cial po­si­tion, and quoted a pas­sage from a book about par­ti­sans’ vic­tims he had brought with him.

Gin­taras Kryže­vičius, pres­i­dent or the panel hear­ing the case, re­marked: «Say­ing that some­one killed means not only com­mit­ting defama­tion, but it also means ac­cus­ing that per­son of a crime.»

«Free­dom of speech is not un­lim­ited. It can be lim­ited in or­der to en­sure that cause of kind­ness is re­spected in a demo­cratic state as Lithua­nia,» the judge ac­cen­tu­ated. Mayor Vy­tau­tas Grubli­auskas said in court that mem­bers of the coun­cil were free to ex­press their opin­ion.

«But free­dom to in­for­ma­tion is not ab­so­lute, which is de­fined in the Con­sti­tu­tion,» he said.

Counter-ar­gu­ing, Ti­tov said that he based his claim on Soviet court doc­u­ments and feels per­se­cuted for his opin­ion. His­to­ri­ans, how­ever, say any re­search on Lithua­nia’s re­sis­tance move­ment can­not be based on the KGB ma­te­ri­als as they are full of false ac­cu­sa­tions smear­ing par­ti­sans. Ti­tov made defam­a­tory state­ments in July and was flour-bombed swiftly af­ter­wards dur­ing a right-wing party-held protest over the nasty state­ments. Lithua­nia’s pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral’s Of­fice in July launched an in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­gard­ing the defama­tion of the mem­ory of a dead per­son.

A par­ti­san war­fare broke out in Lithua­nia in 1944 af­ter the Baltic coun­try was oc­cu­pied by the Soviet Union for the sec­ond time. Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas lead par­ti­sans in the south­ern re­gion of Dzūk­ija. To­gether with other par­ti­san com­man­ders, he signed the Lithua­nian Par­ti­sans Dec­la­ra­tion of Fe­bru­ary 16, 1949. Armed fight for the restora­tion of Lithua­nia’s in­de­pen­dence lasted from 1944 un­til 1953. Ra­manauskas-Vana­gas was de­tained in 1956, bru­tally tor­tured by the Sovi­ets and ex­e­cuted a year later.

His re­mains were found ear­lier this year in Našlaičiai Ceme­tery in An­takal­nis. Au­then­tic­ity of the re­mains was con­firmed by an­thro­po­log­i­cal foren­sic anal­y­sis, skull and face pho­to­graphic com­par­i­son, and DNA test. The par­ti­san’s re­mains were buried in the cer­e­mony of state fu­neral dur­ing Oc­to­ber 5-6.

BNS

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