Parliament shut down after MP refuses to budge

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There were extraordinary scenes at the Latvian parliament or Saeima Thursday with the entire chamber effectively held to ransom by the belligerence of a single Regional Alliance member.

Deputy Dainis Liepins, representing the opposition Latvian Regional Alliance (LRA), was not supposed to take part in the session as he is under criminal investigation.

However, Liepins was admitted to the hall Thursday then refused to leave it - prompting the parliament presidium and the faction council to adjourn the session for an entire week.

He pointedly ignored requests from speaker Inara Murniece to leave the hall, prompting Murniece to announce a 15-minute technical break during which the parliament presidium and faction council met.

They chose to put the parliament on ice for a week.

According to the parliament rules, if a criminal prosecution has been started against a parliament member, the parliament member is not allowed to take part in meetings of the parliament until the criminal prosecution is ended or a court sentence comes into force.

Though members of parliament enjoy technical immunity from prosecution, this can be waived by a vote of parliament.

That is what happened in February wen the parliament decided that Liepins must be tried in court for providing false information in his official statement of income and expenditure in the time period between April 1, 2010, and June 28, 2012. The criminal procedure was sent to Jelgava court on July 1, 2013, and in February 2014 the court started its investigation.

Liepins pleads not guilty in the case, and evidently exacted his revenge on parliament for allowing the prosecution by means of his actions on Thursday.

Thursday's plenary meeting was supposed to be the first of a busy spring session for the Saeima with final readings due for laws cocerning road traffic, civil procedures in the legal system and vocational education.

However, due to Liepeins' intransigence, no progress was made on the bills.

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