Latvian rioter beaten in Czech jail, lawyer says

Ansis Ataols Bērziņš, sentenced to a prison term in Latvia for involvement the 2009 riots in Riga Old Town, was beaten up by jail wardens in Czech Republic where he was arrested last year, Bērziņš’ lawyer Janis Mucenieks said.

"Jail wardens beat him up on February 19. As Bērziņš sustained severe bodily damage, a complaint has been filed with the Czech prosecutor. We also turned to the Latvian Foreign Ministry and the Latvian embassy in the Czech Republic," said Mucenieks.

The Czech Supreme court last year upheld the decision of court to extradite Bērziņš to Latvia. Bērziņš appealed the decision in the Czech Constitutional Court and is still held in custody in the Czech Republic, said the lawyer.

Bērziņš has been convicted for participation in the January 13, 2009, riot in Riga but has fled Latvia to avoid serving his sentence of one year and eight months. He was detained in the Czech Republic in spring 2017. He himself claimed that he was seeking political asylum in the Czech Republic.

In February 2016 the Riga Regional Court rejected Bērziņš' appeal against the guilty verdict and he was supposed to go to jail.

During an online news conference via Skype in July 2016, Bērziņš, the son of well-known Latvian poet and translator Uldis Bērziņš, announced that he felt let down by the Latvian state. As a young boy, he had actively participated in the drive for Latvia's independence but now the Latvian authorities want to put him in jail, he complained. However, he did not deny that he had been throwing cobblestones at the Latvian parliament building during the riot.

On January 13, 2009, a peaceful rally turned into a riot and over 50 rioters have been convicted, although most got off with community service and only nine were given real jail terms. The conditional sentence given to Bērziņš by the court became a real jail term after he failed to register with the State Probation Service which was one of the conditions of his conditional sentence.

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