Viewing cable 05VILNIUS1278

05VILNIUS12782005-12-05 15:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 001278 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/04/2015 
Classified By: Vice Consul Christian Yarnell for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d 
 ¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Lithuanian police detained two U.S. 
servicemen following a dispute at a local Vilnius club on 
November 26.  A Lithuanian and Somali citizen claim they were 
assaulted by the American parties, who deny the allegations 
and claim mistreatment themselves.  The Lithuanian 
authorities are conducting an investigation of the incident. 
We have requested a waiver of jurisdiction for the Americans, 
and GOL reps will approach prosecutors to determine if the 
case can be transferred to U.S. military authorities.  We 
will continue to coordinate closely with the GOL on this case 
and are confident that we will reach an appropriate 
resolution.  END SUMMARY. 
Airmen Detained After Fight at Local Club 
¶2. (SBU) Vilnius city police detained two U.S. Air Force 
servicemen, currently serving as part of NATO's Baltic Air 
Policing mission in Lithuania, during predawn hours on 
November 26 following a dispute at a local striptease club. 
The airmen had allegedly gotten into a brawl with another 
club patron, a Somali citizen, and the club's security 
personnel also became embroiled in the incident.  The Somali 
claimed that the Americans had assaulted him and attempted to 
use a knife during the struggle.  The Americans emerged from 
the incident badly battered but without serious injury. 
Video surveillance obtained by the Embassy showed private 
security personnel using excessive force against the 
servicemen outside of the club.  The airmen, both African 
American, claimed wrongdoing by the security personnel, and 
also complained that the Lithuanian police officers initially 
handling the case used racial epithets against them. 
Investigation Still Underway 
¶3. (SBU) Lithuanian law enforcement is conducting an 
investigation, as are U.S. military personnel.  The airmen's 
claims about the incident differ dramatically from those of 
the Lithuanian security guards and the Somali citizen, and 
there does not appear to be any evidence to decisively verify 
a particular version of the story.  The Somali and one member 
of the club's security team have filed charges against the 
Americans for injuring them.  The servicemen have denied 
these charges, and are considering filing a complaint against 
the Lithuanian police for racial discrimination.  The Vilnius 
prosecutor's office is questioning all parties involved as 
part of the investigation.  The airmen could face charges of 
"hooliganism," which under Lithuanian law carries a maximum 
penalty of two years imprisonment but usually results only in 
a fine. 
Embassy Requests Waiver of Jurisdiction 
¶4. (C) Ambassador Mull, along with Lt Col James Bitzes, Staff 
Judge Advocate from 52nd Fighter Wing, met with Lithuanian 
MFA and MOD reps on December 2 to discuss the situation. 
Ambassador Mull reviewed the case and noted that the USG 
wishes to avoid a criminal trial, which could damage 
U.S.-Lithuanian relations.  He informed the Lithuanian 
officials that the Embassy would send an official request via 
diplomatic note that the GOL waive jurisdiction in this case 
and allow the U.S. military to handle the investigation and 
potential prosecution.  (We delivered the note to the Foreign 
Ministry on December 5.)  The Ambassador noted that the USG 
possesses this right pursuant to Article VII of the 
U.S.-Lithuania Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) and assured 
that U.S. military structures would ensure proper justice in 
the case. 
¶5. (C) Jonas Paslauskas, Director of the MFA Americas 
Department, expressed concern regarding the political 
ramifications of the incident.  (NOTE: Lithuanian media began 
reporting on the incident as early as November 28.) 
Paslauskas noted that the GOL would want to proceed with 
caution and try to avoid stirring any anti-American 
sentiments as a result.  Dr. Dainius Zalimas, Legal Advisor 
to the Minister of Defense, said that the Defense Minister 
himself would contact the Prosecutor General, as the 
prosecutor's office would have final authority with regards 
to our request for a waiver of jurisdiction.  Zalimas also 
cautioned that, given the complexity of the case, the 
prosecutor's decision would likely not come quickly. 
Comment: Working Towards Resolution 
¶6. (C) This incident is an unfortunate distraction from the 
overwhelmingly positive experience of U.S. military 
participation in NATO's Baltic Air Policing mission.  U.S. 
military officials have taken steps to ensure that a similar 
incident does not reoccur, and we do not believe this one 
event will have any serious ramifications for the air 
policing mission.  We are confident that the GOL will be 
sympathetic to our request for a waiver of jurisdiction, and 
we will continue to work intensively with it to resolve the 
case quietly.