Noah Brehmer on Thu, 17 Mar 2016 13:56:47 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Call for support from Lithuania

Four people in Kaunas are now being ridiculously prosecuted by criminal
charges for inciting violence against social and ethnic groups by putting
WELCOME”. The absurd accusations are based on total misinterpretation of
poster but it cannot be explained without taking into consideration the
current regional context of militarisation and “the enemies of the state”
hunt driven by the discourse of “national security”. We are calling for
support from all around Europe and beyond to help win the case and to show
that not people but detention centres build up by governments need to be
The posters were hung on the eve of February 16 last year, before the
Statehood Restoration Day, commemorated by right-wing march on Kaunas
streets <>. It was caught on
camera and the official police investigation began. Also, it is probable,
then, that the investigation is being pushed by the right-wing group(s)
interest in revenge and silencing their direct opposition.

The accusations are based on an (incredibly) incompetent interpretation of
the poster according to which: “burn Rukla (the “integration” centre)”,
rather than being a critique of an insufficient, faulty, and, essentially,
harmful institution, is an incitement to burn the “integration” centre
together with its inhabitants. “Deport the government”, rather than being a
critique of government largely blind to the issues that asylum seekers
experience every day (as in “walk a mile in their shoes”), is an incitement
of violence towards “a group of persons… belonging thereto on grounds of…
social status” (i.e. “government” being understood as “social group”)

There is also a secondary interpretation, played completely on the recent
Russian scare. According to it, “burn Rukla” may mean incitement to destroy
the Lithuanian military regiment stationed in Rukla, “deport the
government” may mean incitement to overthrow the government of the Republic
of Lithuania, and “immigrants welcome” may mean welcoming of the Russian
“immigrants”, i.e., occupational forces. Needless to say, such an
interpretation plays a part in making the case part of the defensive
nationalist ideology.

Two homes were raided by the criminal police in order to search for
evidence that the persons living in them participated in the action. No
such evidence was found. To one of the accused, a student that was at the
time working and at the moment is unemployed, the option of state lawyer
was denied, because the universal right to free-of-charge state lawyer was
abolished as one of the austerity measures employed by the Lithuanian state
in 2009. After the pre-court procedure was deemed over, the pleas of the
accused to provide an alternative interpretation of the poster’s text was
rejected due to supposed “unwillingness to cooperate with the police”.

While this case may appear as small in light of the terrible social and
legal situation of the refugees – to whom the action was in solidarity with
– we believe it is part of a broader picture of militarisation,
criminalisation of protest, and support to far-right politics in Lithuania.
Since Lithuania joined the EU in 2004 there has been a movement toward the
centralization and exponential expansion of security and military forces –
this expansion has been rapidly increased in the context of post-euro
maidan geo-politics. The re-introduction of mandatory conscription (2015;
previously abolished in 2008), the formation of a para-military riot
control squad (2008), the arming of police with assault rifles (2015),
acquisition of water cannons to control future protests (2016), the
theatrical public performance of a military response to a building occupied
by armed “dissenters” (2015), a mandatory nation-wide training day for all
low level managers to respond to an “invasion situation” (2014) – all of
these point toward an increased “Russian scare”, as well as state-level
anti-refugee propaganda, which largely used to silence dissent with the
government, protests and grassroots movements.

We know the situation in Lithuania is not an exception in Eastern Europe.
As the military and national security budgets increases, the social systems
are degrading, the labor codes are being liberalised to the extent never
seen before. Anti-immigration sentiments are prevailing although people
from this region are also the ones who are forced to leave and follow the
capital. Tensions are growing everywhere and… to finish with a small rap:
“A conclusion leads us that revolution is once again a solution!”

*The Support that we are asking is*, firstly, to spread the news about the
case and situation here. We are searching for international journalists who
would be interested to write about the case, immigrants and refugees
situation in Lithuania. Secondly, your advices and experiences of dealing
with these kinds of cases would be helpful: successful actions of support
that were organised, official organisations that could help, etc. Thirdly,
your solidarity will be helpful in itself, as it keeps you strong, feeling
more people behind your back in a court hall and in the streets

At the moment financial support is not needed.

In solidarity,
Egzilis collective

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