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Saeima votes to strip MP Jurass of immunity from prosecution

BC, Riga, 31.01.2019.Print version
A majority of Saeima members today voted in favor of stripping MP Juris Jurass (New Conservative Party, JKP) of immunity from prosecution, reported LETA.

The Prosecutor General’s Office requested the parliament’s permission to prosecute Jurass for alleged disclosure of state secrets.

Saeima granted the prosecution’s request by 73 votes to 17.

After the vote, Jurass left the parliament’s session hall as he was no longer permitted to participate in Saeima meetings.

Previously, the Saeima Mandates, Ethics and Submissions Committee took a similar decision, with nine MPs voting to allow Jurass’ prosecution and four voting against it.

Jurass claims that the case against him is built on lies and half-truths and the Prosecutor General’s Office has been misleading the public about his case. Jurass, who sees himself as a whistleblower, believes that the case against him is politically motivated and Prosecutor General Eriks Kalmeiers has been acting as an “advocate of oligarchs”.

During today’s debate in Saeima preceding the vote on his lawmaker’s immunity, Jurass said he wanted to prove his innocence in court and asked Saeima to vote so he did not lose such an opportunity. MPs of his New Conservative Party met Jurass’ speech with standing applause.

Justice Minister Janis Bordans (JKP), who also attended the Saeima meeting and stressed that he is speaking as justice minister and not the JKP leader, said that the case had reached the parliament because of political motives.

Andrejs Judins (New Unity) noted that it had been difficult to access information on Jurass’ case. The MP said that Saeima is not a court and that lawmakers would not analyze the alleged crimes. It is, however, the duty of Saeima to react to allegations that the case is politically motivated. Pointing to the contradictory statements made by Jurass and the prosecutor, Judins said that to vote against Jurass’ prosecution would mean further uncertainty. Judins believes that answers to the questions about this case have to be provided by court.

Former prime minister Maris Kucinskis (Greens/Farmers) argued that neither the Prosecutor General’s Office nor the Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) can be politically influenced.

In the morning, around 100 people staged a rally outside the Saeima building in protest against the Prosecutor General Office's request that Saeima lift immunity for MP Juris Jurass (New Conservative Party, JKP), LETA observed.

As reported, the Prosecutor General’s Office has sent documents to the Saeima, asking to allow criminal prosecution against Saeima defense, interior affairs and corruption prevention committee chairman Juris Jurass (New Conservative Party, JKP) for disclosing state secrets. Prosecutor General Eriks Kalnmeiers said in an interview with commercial LNT television that the Prosecutor General’s Office is confident a criminal prosecution should be launched against Jurass.

The Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) in September 2018 closed a criminal investigation into Jurass’ claims that he had been offered a million-euro bribe as head of the KNAB division.

The pretrial investigation was completed and on September 11 a decision was made to close the case due to lack of crime, KNAB reported.

Jurass said that this decision has been predictable because investigation in the case had been delayed and formal.

Information about the alleged crime was published in February 2017. Jurass then indicated, however, that about a year and a half had passed since the attempted bribery already and that this was a very long period of time. “The more time has passed the more difficult it is to prove a crime, let alone a crime requiring specific investigation techniques that have to be used from the very beginning,” Jurass said.

As reported, Jurass, who was fired from his job by the Corruption Prevention Bureau's chief Jaroslavs Strelcenoks, said in an interview with Ir magazine that he had been offered a EUR 1 million bribe in return for changing the charges brought against former head of Latvian Railways (LDz) Ugis Magonis - from bribery to trading in influence, which carries a much lighter sentence.

The Corruption Prevention Bureau later said that Jurass had said too much and therefore significantly impeded the bureau's investigation into his allegations. The Security Police started a probe against Jurass for public disclosure of classified information.

It has also been reported, Corruption Prevention Bureau officers detained Magonis in the summer of 2015. He is suspected of accepting a EUR 500,000 bribe from Estonian millionaire Oleg Ossinovski so that Latvijas Dzelzcels subsidiary LDz Ritosa Sastava Serviss would purchase four old locomotives for several million euros from Ossinovski's company Skinest.

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