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Cablegate: Lembergs Out of Prison and On House Arrest

VZCZCXYZ0029
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHRA #0518 1931437
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121437Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY RIGA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4173
INFO RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 4088
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS PRIORITY 3882

UNCLAS RIGA 000518

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KCRM LG
SUBJECT: LEMBERGS OUT OF PRISON AND ON HOUSE ARREST


1.(U) Summary. On July 10th, the Riga Regional Court, in a
closed court proceeding, granted Ventspils Mayor Aivars
Lembergs release from state prison and placed him on house
arrest. Lembergs is charged with large scale money
laundering and public corruption and was in prison due to the
Prosecutor General's belief that Lembergs would interfere
with the investigation and intimidate potential witnesses.
This was the sixth appeal made by Lembergs to the court
demanding his release from prison and it was finally granted.
The Prosecutor General's (PG) Office has no ability to
appeal this decision. There is much confusion in the public
and a wide spectrum of speculation as to the reasons for this
decision. To date, the judge's ruling has not been released
to the public. End Summary.

2. (U) In his previous appeals for release, Lembergs has
cited his poor health as his main reason for release. The
PG's office has won past rulings in their favor by arguing
that sufficient medical care can be brought to the prison and
that the danger of Lembergs' interference in the
investigation far outweighed his mild discomfort. While,
recent pictures of Lembergs show a great deal of weight loss,
there has been no evidential proof of his health problems
presented to the public.

3. (U) The general reaction in society to this news is one of
confusion. Because the court proceedings were closed to the
public, the reasoning behind the decision remains unclear.
The judge overseeing the case has yet to issue her ruling in
writing for the public record including to persons where were
present for the proceeding.

4.(U) The lack of a full text of the ruling has created what
many are labeling a 'legal vacuum.' The only known condition
is that Lembergs must stay at his declared place of
residency. To this date, there are no other known conditions
or restrictions related to his confinement including no
restrictions on communication or personal meetings.
Additionally, which state agency will supervise his house
arrest has yet to be assigned, such as the State Police.
From the time of his release, Lembergs has managed to changed
his declared place of residency from his small apartment to
his countryside estate.

5. (U) Though Lembergs has been imprisoned, he has retained
his position as Mayor of Ventspils (including receiving his
salary) and continues to enjoy the unwavering support of the
collation member party Greens and Farmers (ZZS). ZZS
supported Lembergs in the last election as their preferred
Prime Minister candidate. For his part, Lembergs has stated
that he simply wishes to return to work.

6.(U) There is much speculation on the timing of his release
for it corresponds with the new President's first working day
in office. However, both the new President, Valdis Zatlers,
and the Prime Minister, Aigars Kalvitis, have stated that
they do not see any possibility at this moment for Lembergs
to participate in the ruling coalition council's meetings as
he has done in the past. ZZS claims that they will honor all
restrictions on communication with Lembergs as set by the
court.

7.(SBU) Comment: This sudden reversal of decision - all six
appeals have been heard and reviewed by the same judge --
coupled with the judge's hesitation to immediately release
her ruling to the public has caused great public concern that
the judge has been under quiet yet heavy pressure from
political forces to grant the release request. For the
moment, there is no apparent link between this judge and
Lembergs or any of his associates. While there is much
speculation about the reason for this decision, the reality
is that there is not enough information available to draw
credible conclusions, although it is worrying. End Comment.
BAILEY

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