January 13 coup suspects may be tried in absentia, Vilnius court rules

DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

Judge Ainora Kornelija Macevičienė announced that the case would be considered on the merits after exploring all possibilities to contact the defendants and notify them of the hearings.

The judicial proceedings in Vilnius are attended by only two Russian citizens, former Soviet officers, while more than 60 other defendants are abroad, mainly in Russia. The Soviet Union‘s former defence minister Dmitriy Yazov is among them.

The judge said prosecutors had turned to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine in the course of the investigation with requests to deliver notices to the defendants about the suspicions and the European Arrest Warrants, but positive responses were received from Ukraine only.

“The requests were sent to Prosecutor General‘s Offices of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. It was only the Ukrainian prosecutors who executed the requests for legal assistance,” said the judge on Friday.

The defendants are represented by dozens of lawyers in the Vilnius trial.

Reading of the indictment was started at the hearing on Friday.

In early hours of January 13, 1991, the Soviet Union’s military units attacked the Vilnius Television Tower and the Radio and Television Committee Building, killing 14 unarmed civilians.

In 1999, six people were sentenced to jail terms in the trial of establishing anti-state organizations and other crimes. The war crimes and crimes against humanity investigation made progress after adoption of legal amendments on trial in absentia.

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