Whistleblower told he can't leave the country

Take note – story published 7 years ago

Juris Jurašs, a former senior officer with Latvia's dedicated anti-corruption police and currently a candidate for mayor of Riga in upcoming elections, representing the New Conservative Party (NKP), said May 16 Latvia's internal security service, the Security Police (DP) had told him he could not leave the country.

At a press conference in central Riga, Jurašs said the restriction had been placed on him last week as he had been named as a suspect in a case of disclosing state secrets.

In a well-publicized case, Jurašs said he had been offered a huge bribe while working at anti-corruption force KNAB in order to reduce charges against Ugis Magonis, former head of Latvian Railways, who is himself accused of accepting bribes from an Estonian businessman.

Flanked by another high-profile former KNAB officer, Juta Stike, and NKP leader and former Justice Minister Janis Bordans, Jurašs said the restriction placed upon him and the pursuit of a criminal case against him for his whistleblowing was indicative of a deep malaise within Latvian power structures including the office of the prosecutor general, with anyone attempting to reveal corruption more likely to find themselves in court than the perpetrators of graft.

"You have a situation where someone could be elected mayor of Riga but not be allowed to leave the country," said Jurašs, describing the state of affairs as a threat to "freedom of speech".

According to Jurašs in 2015 he was offered the bribe and immediately reported it to his KNAB superiors. But after no action was taken in the next year, he went public with the allegation.

"The current situation is getting like what happens in Moscow," said Bordans, suggesting that making and example of Jurašs (in addition to a previous whistleblower, Ilmars Poikans, who has faced years of litigation) was an attempt to intimidate society into silence when it sees corruption in high places.

"But we are ready, we are not afraid, because we know that right is on our side," said Strike. 

If found guilty of deliberate disclosure of state secrets, an individual can be imprisoned for up to five years of forced labor, or face a large fine and deprivation of the right to hold official posts for up to five years.

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