Viewing cable 05VILNIUS706
Title: LITHUANIAN COURT FINES EDITOR FOR ANTI-SEMITIC

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
05VILNIUS7062005-07-07 14:14:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Vilnius
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS E F T O SECTION 01 OF 02 VILNIUS 000706 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE NOFORN 
 
STATE FOR EUR/OHI AND EUR/NB 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PHUM PREL SOCI LH
SUBJECT: LITHUANIAN COURT FINES EDITOR FOR ANTI-SEMITIC 
EDITORIALS 
 
REF: A. 04 VILNIUS 256 
 
     ¶B. VILNIUS 562 
     ¶C. 04 VILNIUS 212 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- NOFORN 
 
SUMMARY 
------- 
 
¶1. (U) Vilnius Administrative Judge Audrius Cininas fined 
Vitas Tomkus, editor-in-chief and sole owner of Lithuania's 
second largest daily, "Respublika," 3,000 LTL (US$1,035) on 
July 7 for inciting anti-Semitism in a series of editorials 
in 2004.  The court held that, by publishing editorials 
claiming that Jews and homosexuals "rule the world" (ref A), 
the paper violated administrative law prohibiting 
"dissemination of a publication that instigates national, 
racial, or religious discord."  In advance of the trial, 
Tomkus's newspapers published negative articles in a 
calculated assault on the court and against the judge 
personally.  Tomkus also attempted to embarrass Rabbi Andrew 
Baker, an American, who testified at the hearing.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
 
THE HEARING - SHORT AND UNCOMPLICATED 
------------------------------------- 
 
¶2. (U) We attended the four-hour administrative hearing on 
July 5, in which Tomkus refused to participate and was not 
represented by counsel.  Although there was very little prior 
coverage of the situation in the press, every major media 
outlet sent representatives to observe. 
 
¶3. (U) The prosecutor began by reading the text of each 
charge against Tomkus.  Next, Judge Audrius Cininas read into 
the record the conclusions of an expert panel composed of 
academics, which found that the Tomkus articles published in 
"Respublika" and Tomkus's tabloid paper "Vakaro Zinios" were 
intentionally anti-Semitic and propagate the myth of a world 
Jewish conspiracy. 
 
¶4. (U) The court then called on Rabbi Andrew Baker of the 
American Jewish Committee.  Baker is a prominent participant 
in anti-Semitism conferences in Europe, is heavily involved 
in the Jewish communal property restitution process in 
Lithuania, and has been the official U.S. representative to 
the annual OSCE anti-Semitism conference.  In his statement, 
Baker drew allusions between the anti-Semitic cartoons in 
Nazi-era newspapers and the cartoons published in 
"Respublika."  He also mentioned that the articles rely on 
"all the old myths of anti-Semitism."  Baker closed with 
remarks on the OSCE definition of anti-Semitism and said that 
he saw this hearing as a manifestation of the GOL's 
commitment to fight anti-Semitism. 
 
¶5. (U) Lithuanian Jewish Community attorney Faina Kuliansky 
presented a closing statement, saying "Whatever the outcome, 
people will still say the same things. If we win, that says 
the Jews control the world, and if we lose, that says that 
Tomkus was right and the Jews control the world."  Kuliansky 
asked the judge to impose the maximum penalty on Tomkus. 
 
¶6. (U) The judge could have imposed a fine of up to 5,000 LTL 
and ordered the seizure of Tomkus's printing equipment. 
Cininas stated that since Tomkus was a "first-time offender," 
he would not order the confiscation.  Tomkus's fine outweighs 
those imposed on three newspaper editors, including those of 
the Russian-language versions of "Respublika" and "Vakaro 
Zinios," who the same court previously convicted of 
disseminating the editorials.  Judge Cininas ordered them to 
pay fines of between 1,000 and 1,200 LTL(ref B). 
 
 
RABBI BAKER'S TAKE ON THE SITUATION 
----------------------------------- 
 
¶7. (SBU/NF) Baker told us privately on June 21 that Jewish 
community attorney Kuliansky had initially asked him to 
testify.  After consulting with our Mission, he sent a letter 
to the judge, saying, in effect, he would testify if asked. 
However, media reports claimed that Baker had requested the 
opportunity to speak. 
 
¶8. (SBU/NF) Baker told us on the margins of the hearing that 
he believes GOL officials frequently seek to pass 
responsibility for these types of prosecutions to outsiders 
in order to give themselves cover.  In his opinion, that was 
one reason the judge and the Jewish community attorney 
requested his presence.  Baker also cited a previous meeting 
on property restitution with President Valdas Adamkus in 
February, which we attended, where the President himself 
raised the Respublika articles.  In the Presidency's press 
release, Baker was said to have raised the issue and been 
outraged that more was not being done.  Shortly thereafter, 
the prosecutor's office reopened the case and filed charges. 
Baker said as long they make progress on these issues, it is 
fine with him if they pass the buck.  After the judge's 
verdict was announced, Baker told the CDA that he was pleased 
with the trial's outcome. 
 
 
TOMKUS GETS PERSONAL 
-------------------- 
 
¶9. (U) Both of Tomkus's papers ("Respublika" and "Vakaro 
Zinios") published numerous articles in advance of the 
hearing depicting the judge and the Jewish community as 
corrupt.  In the week leading up to the trial, there were at 
least two speculative and tendentious articles each day in 
"Respublika" and three in "Vakaro Zinios" describing the 
alleged corruption in the case and illegal actions of the 
judge. 
 
¶10. (U) Both papers published stories claiming that the 
judge's ex-wife built a small summer home on the judge's 
father's property without a permit.  The stories concluded 
that the house was actually Judge Cininas's, and this was his 
way to avoid being accused of violating property laws.  The 
other primary allegation, repeated daily, was that the judge 
illegally compelled Tomkus's attendance in court during the 
first attempt to start the hearing and that therefore the 
entire process was corrupt.  (NOTE: Based on reported public 
comments from various officials, it is possible that Judge 
Cininas did overstep his authority by attempting to compel 
Tomkus's appearance in an administrative case. END NOTE.) 
 
¶11. (U) Tomkus's papers targeted Rabbi Baker after his 
testimony, stating that he did not show proper respect to the 
court because he appeared "bored" and chewed gum during the 
proceedings.  Both papers also ran stories claiming that 
Baker disposed of his gum by sticking to the underside of the 
desk in front his chair - complete with a picture of the 
underside of the desk (with gum) in "Vakaro Zinios." 
 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
¶12. (SBU/NF) It is encouraging that the court agreed with its 
experts and found Tomkus guilty, ignoring his scurrilous 
attempts to smear the involved participants. Unfortunately, 
Tomkus's shrill allegations of impartiality and corruption 
will likely find some willing listeners among the public, 
many of whom still harbor latent anti-Semitism.  Lithuania 
has made significant strides in combating intolerance and 
promoting the rule of law, but must continue its work.  We 
will also continue our outreach on tolerance issues and 
Holocaust education, making sure these topics stay in the 
public psyche. 
 
¶13. (SBU/NF) The name-calling and juvenile allegations in 
this case also highlight Lithuania's weak journalistic 
standards, especially in the print media.  Tomkus, as the 
sole owner of "Respublika" and "Vakaro Zinios," continues to 
use his position to promote intolerant views and to attack 
those who he sees as enemies.  In this situation, Tomkus's 
attempts at muckraking and undermining the judge and the 
legal process were mostly unsuccessful, since he could not 
find any direct evidence of corruption. 
 
Kelly