Watch: Belgian policeman charged with defiling Latvian flag

Take note – story published 7 years and 1 month ago

The office of Latvia's Prosecutor General says it is pressing charges against two Belgian citizens for vandalizing a Latvian flag in Riga -- and that one of those facing court action is a police officer.

On its webpage, the prosecutor's office said it was taking the action under Criminal Law Article 93 which forbids the defilement of the Latvian flag and other state symbols.

"According to the decision of taking the criminal case to trial, on the morning of March 26, 2017 two citizens of the Kingdom of Belgium, one of which was a police officer when the offense was committed, and both being under the influence of alcohol, seized a flag from a building on Kaleju Street, Riga, tore it and broke the flagstaff. The accused tossed the Latvian flag into the road," says a statement.

They later returned to the flag whereupon the police officer "ran down the street waving it and posed for the other accused, who photographed his activities."

The show of unpleasant bravado now looks like earning them both an uncomfortable day in court as video footage of the incident seems quite clear. It will also hopefully earn them a history lesson as the flags were being flown on March 26 in memory of the thousands of people deported to Siberia by the Soviets.

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The request for criminal proceedings was referred to the Riga City Vidzeme District Court.

In a separate case, the Latvian Prosecutor General's Office has started the paperwork to get a participant of the riot in Riga on January 13, 2009, extradited from the Czech Republic, the LETA news service reported April 20.

The Prosecutor General's Office said that on April 5 it had sent to the competent Czech authority the European Arrest Warrant for Ansis Ataols Berzins, seeking his extradition to Latvia.

Berzins has been convicted for participation in the 2009 riot in Riga but fled Latvia to avoid serving his sentence of one year and eight months.

During an online news conference via Skype in July 2016, Berzins 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, which soon afterwards contributed to the collapse of the government. Berzins said he had left the country to avoid going to jail but would not say in which country he was staying currently.

On January 13, 2009, a peaceful protest against the government turned into a riot and over 50 rioters have been convicted, although only nine were given real jail terms. The conditional sentence given to Berzins 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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