Jan. 13 defendants followed orders, knew nothing about Lithuania's history, lawyers say

January 13, 1991
Foto: K.Svėrio nuotr.

The defendants in the January 13, 1991 case cannot be held accountable for the Jan. 13 events as they followed the orders of their commanders and knew nothing about Lithuania's history, their lawyers say.

Albertas Jurgelėnas, defending Aleksandr Zolotukhin, told Vilnius Regional Court on Tuesday that his client was an army officer, 28, during the January, 1991 events, and previously worked at the Communist Party's higher schools.

"He was deployed with the whole division; he previously worked at higher schools. There was the only Soviet Union Communist Party, he was a member. Upon arrival in Lithuania, he assumed he was in a republic which was part of the Soviet Union. He was unaware of Lithuania's history, he did not study it," the lawyer said, adding that his client was only following orders as otherwise he would have faced military tribunal.

"He had no experience and was raised in the spirit of the Soviet Communist Party. He imagined that he must execute them as a citizen. I'm asking the court to take into account the fact that he did not shoot and injure a single person," Jurgelėnas said.

The lawyers of the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian citizens standing trial in absentia continue presenting their arguments at Vilnius Regional Court on Tuesday.

The Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office is asking court to find former Soviet Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov guilty of crimes against humanity for his role in the bloody events of Jan. 13, 1991 in Vilnius and to sentence him to life imprisonment.

Life sentences are also proposed for another five defendants charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, including Mikhail Golovatov, a former KGB officer who was detained at Vienna Airport in July 2011 under a European arrest warrant issued by Lithuania, but was released in less than 24 hours.

Prison sentences ranging from 12 to 20 years are also proposed for the remaining 61 defendants in this case.

The prosecutors earlier cited many international legal acts, stating that Lithuania must follow universally-recognized principles and norms of law, the principles of respect for international law and meet its commitments.

"There is no statute of limitations for crimes against humanity, committed both during peacetime and wartime," prosecutor Daiva Skorupskaitė-Lisauskienė told the court, adding that the defendants belonged to the Soviet army, the security committee and their violent actions were aimed at stabilizing the situation in then Soviet Union.

Fourteen civilians were killed and hundreds more were wounded when the Soviet troops stormed the TV Tower and the Radio and Television Committee building in Vilnius in the early hours of Jan. 13, 1991.

Source: BNS
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