Lithuania’s history up for grabs

Reporter faces jail for exposing the truth behind key events of the 1991 counter-revolution.

Algirdas Paleckis is a well-known Lithuanian politician, diplomat and journalist. Most recently, he became a symbol of the fight for freedom of speech and historic truth in Europe.

Paleckis was born in 1971. He graduated from Vilnius University with two degrees – in journalism and in political science. He also studied at the Institute of Public Administration in Paris. In 1994-2003, Paleckis worked as a diplomat in Vilnius and at the Lithuanian embassy to the EU in Brussels. In 2004-06 he was a member of Lithuanian parliament and in 2007-08 he served as the vice-mayor of Vilnius.

He is currently president of a Lithuanian political party called the Socialist People’s Front, and is a board member of ‘World Without Nazism’, a worldwide human-rights organisation. He is staunch defender of democratic and social rights, and regularly publishes articles on politics and economics. He is fluent in English, German, French and Russian, and also speaks Spanish and Polish.

In 2011, a criminal process was initiated against Algirdas Paleckis – a baseless proceeding which can only be interpreted as an attack on socialism and the working-class movement by the Lithuanian state.

Paleckis is currently on trial at the instigation of the state prosecutor on charges that could lead to a one-year prison term. His ‘crime’ was to expose facts embarrassing to Lithuania’s ultra-right government. The term ‘ultra-right’ is used advisedly: the Lithuanian government has, after all, taken it upon itself to hail many former Lithuanian nazis as ‘national heroes’.

To cut a long story short, Lithuania broke away from the USSR in late 1991. However, before that happened, ie, in January 1991, Soviet troops at one point took over the Vilnius TV centre, and in the course of their doing so, 14 people were killed. The Lithuanian government blamed the Soviet troops for these deaths, but presented practically no evidence. To date the matter is still officially under investigation.

As a former investigative journalist, Paleckis made his own enquiries, during which he interviewed many eye-witnesses to the event, as well as ballistics experts. This investigation convinced him that at the relevant time there had been snipers secretly stationed on rooftops engaged in shooting civilians at the Vilnius TV building. Paleckis therefore concluded, and said so publicly, that “it appears that in January 1991 our own people were shooting at their countrymen”.

The ruling party in Lithuania initiated the trial against Paleckis by means of a letter to the state prosecutor. The latter, on the basis of Paleckis’s aforesaid conclusions, charged him with the novel crime of “denying the Soviet aggression against Lithuania”. When the matter eventually came to trial, however, Paleckis was acquitted. Now though, the prosecution has appealed, and this appeal is scheduled for hearing on 12 June 2012 in Vilnius.

The fight for the freedom of thought, speech and opinion, and also for historic truth, continues. The Paleckis case has had much attention in Europe and in Lithuania, as well as in EU and Nato member states. Readers are asked to send letters of support to

You can also send questions about Paleckis’s persecution to the Lithuanian Court: or Gedimino pr 40/1, LT-01501 Vilnius District Court, Lietuva, Lithuania.