O P I N I O N
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
My Monday morning began with confusion. Usually the first thing I do on a Monday morning is prepare a work-report on the week gone by, but the police called me Friday, August 29, 2014, and later delivered a summons ordering me to appear at nine o’clock on September first at the office of Ovidijus Brazys, police investigator with the criminal police department of the Šiauliai municipal police commissariat, in room 312 at Purienų street no. 48, Šiauliai.
As I understood it, this was at the behest of Vilnius police investigator Giedrė Griguolienė who had called me back in early August, on the 8th to be precise. As always, I went to the interrogation without a lawyer. It’s probably time to hire one. This is already the second case against me since the beginning of May, after the first contact with police investigator Reda Šimkutė on May 14, 2014.
This time the police were highly professional, and only tried to deliver the summons over the phone twice. The investigator acquainted me with my rights as a special witness not to give testimony. I learned I was being questioned because of my “possibly committed crime,” and that material for charging me was insufficient… Compared to the first case, the police had made clear progress.
The reason for the interrogation was the text Vilniaus skinai Vytenis Matulevičius, Skirmantas Jankauskas ir Artūras Vileita: kovo 9-ąją mušė kitataučius, kovo 11-ąją skandavo „Lietuva lietuviams!” [“Vilnius Skins Vytenis Matulevičius, Skirmantas Jankauskas ir Artūras Vileita: On March 9 They Beat Up Foreigners, on March 11 They Chanted ‘Lithuania for Lithuanians!'”] written way back in 2011. I did not write it, and it “seems” it was written using material from a television program.
But the investigators weren’t much interested in the content of the text. What they were interested in was whether I was the owner of the antifa.lt internet domain name, and they asked about two other people as well. The police think they’re associated with the internet site. The police also mentioned the anarchija.lt site which had reprinted the text in question. There wasn’t much I could do to help the police, nor did I want to. Regarding one of the people of interest to the police, I said he was a good and reliable friend, and that I barely knew the other one.
The subject of the police’s interest is interesting in itself: judging from the questions posed, the officers aren’t much interested in whether the content was libelous; what interests them is the activity of antifa activists. Antifa in Lithuania is a group of mostly young people who picket neo-Nazi marches and have their internet site. The police were also interested in the website anarchija.lt, a nominally anarchist page of over ten years’ standing which publishes articles on social, political and historical issues. One of the people about whom they posed questions wrote me not too long ago and said his mother was summoned to an interrogation.
Judging from changes in my immediate environment, I can tell it’s very probable the police are interested in which computers I’m using and what I’m doing, and it’s possible they are listening in on my telephone. Whether they are doing this or not, I might only find out after the investigation is complete, and for now it’s a secret. And, if I don’t know about it, I can’t file a complaint about it. Following the investigation, I’ll probably only find out for sure if the material is presented in court. From what I can tell, the material won’t be presented in court. So whether or not I’m under surveillance will remain secret. Well, an open secret of sorts.
Why don’t I believe the material will be presented in court? After work I re-read the text in question. It paraphrases the contents of a television program broadcast on the LNK channel. The program was produced in cooperation with the police. It contains footage of police officers and focuses on the people who filed the charges against me. Which one of the three mentioned in that text, I never found out, but it’s unimportant. Because the material is from the police, the investigators are uninterested in the content. Libel without content is inconceivable. And it must be information known to be false. But the text contains the source of the information… So, most likely, the police are using the complaint to collect information about antifa.lt . The police and the author of the complaint (a libel case requires a specific complaint by the person named in the allegedly libelous material) are working together to collect information about anti-fascists. In this case there is truly no crime—libel or slander is knowingly and intentionally spreading false information—and while LNK is no paragon of good television programming, it’s unlikely anyone would undertake to prove this text paraphrasing the contents of one of their news programs is libelous.
So let’s review what we have: this is now the second case, the second accusation that I have libeled right-wing radicals. In my opinion this second case is also pulled out of thin air. The police are simply going through the motions of investigating a case in order to harass and put pressure on our families. The demand to answer a summons in Vilnius and attend an interrogation there is an attempt to place the costs of the investigation upon my family’s budget, and the police have not paid any recompense to date for that trip to the capital city in July.If the police are in charge of the process, and they continue to surveil me for as long as they want, I will have several such cases against me. If the puppet-master of these investigations is the neo-Nazis, it’s likely they will attack en masse, and there might be so many cases against me I’ll have to think about how to get a job at the Justice Ministry as a “special witness,” because I won’t have time for my work, and no one wants to pay me a salary for visiting the police all the time instead of working. In both cases, a creative stage of life is planned for me as a writer involved no longer in reporting and composition of articles, but now learning the subtle art of writing testimony for my new police audience, and instead of studying history, I will now study the criminal code.
After I wrote the above about my experiences to date, I closed the domain name antifa.lt . Information about this can be found here: http://antifalietuva.org/.
Editor of anarchija.lt Darius Pocevičius was also summoned for interrogation. They asked him, as well, who published the material which interests the police, but in his case, as well, they never explained exactly where the alleged libel occurs in the text. On another front there has been a little good news: friends in Kaunas report the police have dropped a case brought by a group of people against Giedrius Grabauskas for allegedly libeling Lithuanian World War II partisans.
Unfortunately, his “co-defendant” in the case, poet Aleksandras Bosas, died of unrelated causes before police dropped the harassment. Hopefully they will drop the cases against me as well, but so far, they just keep bringing new ones.
Authorized translation from the Lithuanian by Geoff Vasil.