Lithuania loses Euro court case over ex-leader Paksas

Lithuania's former President Rolandas Paksas, 1 Oct 08
Image caption Mr Paksas is now an MEP in a group opposed to deeper EU integration

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Lithuania was wrong to bar former President Rolandas Paksas from running for parliament after he had been ousted from power in 2004.

Lithuania violated an article on free elections in the European Convention on Human Rights, the ruling said.

Mr Paksas was impeached and removed from office as president after the Baltic state's constitutional court found that he had abused his position.

He is now a Euro MP in Strasbourg.

The judgement by the Strasbourg court on Thursday is binding, meaning that Lithuania, an EU member state, will have to act on it to prevent any similar violation in future.

But the judges did not award Mr Paksas compensation, saying their ruling was in itself "sufficient just satisfaction".

Lithuania was found to have violated Article Three of Protocol One (Right to free elections) in the European Convention on Human Rights.

Landmark impeachment

In 2004 Mr Paksas became the first European head of state in modern times to be impeached and removed from office.

The former Soviet republic's constitutional court found that he had illegally arranged Lithuanian citizenship for a Russian-born businessman, Yuri Borisov.

But Mr Paksas, an aerobatic pilot in Soviet times, was cleared of the charge of having leaked state secrets to Russia.

After the constitutional court had backed Mr Paksas's disqualification, the Lithuanian parliament adopted a new electoral rule barring anyone from becoming an MP if they had previously been dismissed in impeachment proceedings.

Mr Paksas complained that the rule had been passed deliberately to bar him from office. He also said the constitutional court had lacked impartiality and had exceeded its powers.

The Strasbourg judges accepted that a breach of the constitution was "a particularly serious matter", but they argued that Mr Paksas's permanent and irreversible disqualification from running for election was disproportionate.

In 2009 Mr Paksas was elected to the European Parliament. He sits with the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group, which seeks to defend national sovereignty and prevent the further concentration of power in Brussels.

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