European Parliament Liberal leader backs Uspaskich as Lithuanian Liberals disavow support

“Verhofstadt’s position was not coordinated with the EP group, it is his personal stance. It is a personal and emotional statement by a person who has known Uspaskich for years, however, we definitely do not support the statement, especially since it does not reflect the position of the entire group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe,” the Liberal Movement’s leader Eligijus Masiulis told BNS on Thursday.

Leader of the European Parliament’s group of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), Guy Verhofstadt, publicly accused the Lithuanian president, Dalia Grybauskaitė, and opposition leaders of inaccurate statements about the outcome of the trial.

“It has been reported that the President of the Republic (of Lithuania) said: ‘Stealing and fraud obviously still pays.’ However it must be clear that Viktor Uspaskich has never even been suspected of stealing anything and he has been totally exonerated of all accusations of fraud. In addition, the Court of First Instance never requested the European Parliament to waive his immunity in connection with allegation of fraud to which he later went on trial for,” Verhofstadt, Belgium’s former prime minister, said in his communique.

The Lithuanian Court of Appeals found Uspaskich guilty of bookkeeping fraud but cleared him off other fraud charges.

He also criticized the remarks by Lithuanian opposition leader Andrius Kubilius about the trial being a “corruption” case, because he said corruption charges were not brought against anybody in the proceedings.

The Belgian politician said the circumstances imply persecution of political opponents in Lithuania.

“Such statements can sadly only be perceived as an attempt to misrepresent the outcome of the trial. The modification of the charges between the two rounds of the national parliamentary elections in 2012, the statement of former President Algirdas Brazauskas confirming the instructions by high-powered people to expel Uspaskich from Lithuania and the revelations made in WikiLeaks all point to political manipulation and the persecution of political opponents,” Verhofstadt stated.

“In view of such statements, I would like to call for restraint in making comments on the outcome of Viktor Uspaskich’s trial, to respect the independence and impartiality of judges. Lithuania is firmly anchored in Europe, and that means respecting both the European Convention of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Political and Civil Rights,” said Verhofstadt who heads the ALDE political group, which includes the Lithuanian MEPs representing the Labour Party and the Liberal Movement.

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