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Latvia pressurizing European court on WWII veteran case - lawyer


RIGA, May 18 (RIA Novosti) - Latvia is pressurizing the European Court of Human Rights over the case of Soviet World War II veteran Vasily Kononov, the 85-year-old former partisan's lawyer said Monday.

Last June, the Strasbourg-based court ordered the Latvian government to pay Vasily Kononov compensation over his 1998 arrest and two-year detention in custody on war crimes charges. Latvia's appeal is to be heard on May 20.

"Latvia is rendering political pressure on the European Court of Human Rights and its president, Jean-Paul Costa, with regard to the case of Vasily Kononov. For example, the republic's Foreign Ministry demanded that the judge who ruled Kononov not guilty in 2008 be removed," Mikhail Ioffe said.

"This was done several days prior to the beginning of the hearing in the European Court of Human Rights' Grand Chamber. Will a few days be enough for the new judge to familiarize himself with the case materials? It's hard to say," he said.

Kononov, acquitted last year by the European Court of Human Rights, accused Latvia earlier on Monday of seeking to re-write history.

"Latvia has employed all its resources to win this case. It is being discussed at the highest possible level, and has political overtones. Laws are being distorted, and interpreted not in my favor... I doubt that I can win again," he told RIA Novosti.

"My battle with Latvia has already lasted 11 years. For Latvia, victory in this case is of paramount importance, it will give the republic the chance to re-write history - the results of the Second World War. Therefore, it is making very serious preparations for the next court hearing."

Kononov said he was unable to fully engage in a legal battle against the Latvian government due to his poor state of health.

The veteran, who originally demanded 5 million euros ($6.7 million at current rates) in compensation, earlier called the Strasbourg Court's decision to award him damages of 30,000 euros ($40,400) "a mockery."

Kononov, who led a group of resistance fighters against Nazi Germany in the Baltic state during WWII, is accused by Latvian authorities of ordering the killing of nine villagers in 1944, with some reports saying the dead included a pregnant woman.

He admitted to the killings, but said the dead were Nazi collaborators who were caught in the crossfire. Latvia was under German occupation at the time of the incident.

The court of human rights agreed in February to hear Latvia's appeal against the compensation ruling. The hearing will take place on May 20.

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