Responses to E. Masiulis and the president‘s correspondence: risking impeachment

Eligijus Masiulis, Dalia Grybauskaitė
DELFI montage

If it turns out that the information released on the correspondence between the president and former Liberal Movement leader Eligijus Masiulis, who is a suspect in the MG Baltic corruption investigation, MPs could seek to initiate new impeachment proceedings, jurist Algimantas Šindeikis told LRT Radio. He is echoed by Vytautas Magnus University professor Mindaugas Jurkynas. According to him, if the information is correct, the president’s actions could be viewed as an attempt to influence democracy, writes.

According to jurist A. Šindeikis, the surface information is rather serious and adds new details to the political corruption case: “It would appear this could conclude with the beginning of certain new impeachment processes. If it truly is the case, what those publications claim (that the president sought to influence journalists through publication owners), I would believe that such behaviour is intolerable in terms of the Constitution.”

The jurist adds that if there are circumstances linked with prosecutor appointments, which were coordinated with a private structure, this is also hard to comprehend: “I believe that if the information has a serious basis, it is likely that MPs may seek new impeachment procedures.”

A. Šindeikis muses that E. Masiulis only released the information on this correspondence now in order to improve his circumstances and ease his defence. However, the jurist believes that it is unlikely this information could actually improve E. Masiulis’ lot.

“I do not believe that the presented information in any way softens E. Masiulis’ responsibility based on the articles of the Penal Code, based on which accusations were levied at him. Nevertheless, new politicians are involved into this scandal. In this case the head of state is involved,” A. Šindeikis says.

Professor M. Jurkynas echoes A. Šindeikis. According to him, if the presented information is true, it reveals the president’s efforts to influence matters: “We can view this as the president’s secret influence on even certain democratic processes. It is pressure on the news media. Such suspicions. If it proves true, it would be a truly negative case.”

The professor adds he is not surprised by the unfolding events. According to him, it is no surprise that the president could have been, as he puts it, E. Masiulis’ “political backing,” nor are the chosen measures.

“The means to make use of both pre-trial investigation materials and reports are not surprising. As then Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius mentioned once, the president blackmailed him and said that pre-trial investigation material will be released, that there will be political pressure, to which by the way, Lithuanian news media did not react,” M. Jurkynas reminds.

According to him, the president then declared she would not comment on the prime minister’s statements and this situation was not discussed any further one the media then. “Just this case could be worthy of impeachment. The president’s desire to control the political situation through political pressure measures was no secret, however new media is now also involved in it,” the expert stated.

The professor explains that due to the positions they express, certain news media outlets may appeal or not, but they are nonetheless one of the guarantees of democracy.

When asked, why such information could be released specifically now, the professor agrees with A. Šindeikis – E. Masiulis is seeking to improve his positions. M. Jurkynas even hypothesises that this decision could have also been made because the politician no longer has political backing.

“Mr. Masiulis no longer has a political “roof” and is left alone against the justice system, he is faced with potential incarceration. I believe that understanding he does not have political support, he decided to release what he would not have released before. I would say it is part of a defensive plan. When he was just caught with the money he said – the time will come and I will talk. It was a message (or so I would understand) – if I’m not politically protected, I will drag many others down with me. Who could deny that’s not what is going on right now?” M. Jurkynas muses.

He reminds that E. Masiulis is still under the presumption of innocence – one is innocent until the courts prove otherwise. However, the professor states, the circumstances could still be exploited by certain parties and politicians.

Political analyst Rimvydas Valatka agrees with M. Jurkynas, stating that the president has the full right to maintain links with other politicians or criticise them, however the analyst notes that the correspondence raises a whole other problem.

“The prosecutors would appear to have taken this evidence found in E. Masiulis’ apartment, correspondence with the president, from the corruption investigation. Did they come up with it themselves? I guess based on what information we have, they didn’t. And now that is a scandal,” R. Valatka emphasises.

According to him, another issue is that the president is seeking to influence through a politician, who interacts with the MG Baltic group, which owns television broadcasters, news portals and other news media outlets: “I’m sorry, but that a journalist is called “Mockus‘ hound” is massively disrespectful to the news media. The question arises then, whether only LNK was pressured that, say, the broadcaster would change its opinion on criticised candidates to the post of prosecutor general? These are questions, which should have already been answered.”

The news portal announced on the weekend it had received proof of correspondence between the president and political corruption investigation suspect E. Masiulis. It turns out that the president was apparently fully willing to criticise politicians and political processes ongoing in the country.

The portal states that the impression arises that despite the president publically criticising oligarchs, she may have pursued contacts with them. Supposedly Liberal Movement leader E. Masiulis may have been a sort of go between for state leaders and oligarchs.

In a press release, the Presidential Palace has stated that, “The courts are currently deliberating on the political corruption case, where E. Masiulis stands accused of taking bribes, sale of influence and illegal profiteering. All efforts are being employed to politicise the case and influence its proceedings and conclusion. As such, we withhold from any comments so that they would not be used in the defence of the accused.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office states that the politicians’ behaviour, which does not have indications of crime, was not a part of the pre-trial investigation. The office refused to comment on E. Masiulis’ statements on correspondence with President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

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