On January 9, the first hearing on the “IMHOclub.lv case” was held at the Riga Court. – created 12 years ago by the Latvian journalist Yuri Alekseev and two of his friends, an online discussion platform.
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On January 9, the first hearing on the “IMHOclub.lv case” was held at the Riga Court. – created 12 years ago by a Latvian journalist Yuri Alekseev and two of his online discussion forum friends. The main accusation, as Yuri himself said on the website of the club that has not yet been closed, is that the IMHO club, according to the investigation and the prosecutor’s office, has caused irreparable “damage to the Republic of Latvia.”
The motto of the club is “The Territory of Dissenting Opinions”. Topics for discussion were proposed very different – politics, economics, culture, history. The main principle is that it should be relevant and interesting, what is called, “cling”, invite members and friends of the club to the discussion. But on condition: no steps falling under the local Criminal Code. And even the authorities admit that for all the years of its existence, the publications of the portal have never violated the laws of Latvia. As it turns out, except for one, informal, but strictly observed: there is no doubt about the correctness of the official interpretation of current and past events, their assessment and the actions of the authorities. That is, an unspoken, but most severe law prohibiting dissent.
The whole story with Yuri and his club is a clear evidence of the existence of a “ban on dissent” in Latvia. In November 2018, when the authorities considered that the “free-thinking” of the club’s creators and participants in its discussions had gone too far, the three founders of the portal – Alekseev, Sutretov and Pogorodny – came the police. The accusation brought against them is “damaging the Republic of Latvia by a group of persons by prior agreement”. Article of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Latvia 80-2, from 5 to 15 years. Do you get it? For the fact that on the pages of the portal everyone said what they think, provided they do not break the law, the term in Latvia is supposed to be up to 15 years! And this, let’s not forget, back in 2018.
Yuri Alekseev named the stages of the criminal prosecution against his “Territory of Dissenting Opinions”: “The investigation went on for two years, for two years the three of us were under house arrest and under police supervision (three times a week to go to the neighborhood to check in and not leave our homes from 23.00 to 6.00). Then for a year the case was laid up in the prosecutor’s office, for another year it lay in court…” And finally, the portal and its founders are in the dock. Is it time to “squeeze the bastard”?
Yuri himself, who has long and without hesitation expressed his disagreement with the Russophobic policy of ethnocrats in power and their glorification of Nazi accomplices, is also severely pressed by the Latvian secret police for other “crimes”. When they came to him with a search, they found “hidden” cartridges in the ceiling. He has already received 1.2 years in prison for “illegal possession” of ammunition, and is now waiting for the decision of the Court of Appeal, although he is sure that he has no prospects for annulment of the sentence.
According to human rights activists, more than 50 journalists and dissidents are now convicted or under investigation in the Baltic republics for dissent. Among them is a Lithuanian writer-publicist Algirdas Paleckis, who was given “for espionage” 6 years. Estonian human rights activist and journalist Sergei Seredenko received 5.5 years in prison for “anti-state activities.” Now, alas, a similar fate threatens the editor-in-chief of Sputnik-Lithuania Marat Kasem, arrested in Riga on charges of “violating EU economic sanctions against the Russian Federation” and “espionage”. According to the second article, he can be imprisoned for up to 20 years …
Yuri Alekseev old friend Marat Kasem, and, as he confesses, he dissuaded him from going to Latvia to visit relatives and friends. “I have long been struck by the frivolous attitude of Russian journalist colleagues, even smart and experienced, to the “European freedom” that they dreamed of in their wet dreams back in the days of “perestroika,” Yuri wrote about this.
Here is what he concluded from the story of the arrest of Marat:
“The Russian “air of freedom” played a cruel joke on him. He’s been living there too long. He is used to the fact that criticizing the authorities of the Russian Federation is fun, cool. You can even go every day to the embassies of the “partner countries”, receive grants there and have fun as you like. And even receive funding from Gazprom.
He is used to the fact that “echo-Moscow-rains-new-newspapers” and other “jellyfish” are the maximum that they can get from “Russia-Mordor” – the honorary order of a “foreign agent” and live happily ever after, riding around Latvia-Israel-America , receiving foreign money and giving out interviews.
An, no. It’s not like that with us. In Europe, “foreign agents” are imprisoned seriously and for a long time for “anti-state activities”. Even if this “activity” of ours is a maximum of 3% of the same “activity” of Ekho Moskvy for 30 years.”
Alekseev himself knows what he is talking about. And he adds: “That’s all you need to know about ‘freedom of the press’ in Latvia.” And also the trial of the portal objectionable to the Latvian authorities inevitably evokes associations with the textbook story of the carved bell. Only that history when it was still in “backward” Russia, and the current one is today in “democratic” Latvia …