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RIGA, February 18. /ITAR-TASS/. Latvian activists have started collecting signatures against the legislation interpreting public denial of or doubts over Soviet and Nazi occupation a criminal offence. The campaign was initiated by Latvia’s renowned journalist Yury Alexeyev.
“I completely deny the term Soviet occupation,” he said. “And I maintain that the Soviet troops were brought into the territory of Latvia with the consent of its government and without military activities.”
“More than that, I consider that from 1945 to 1991 Latvia thrived in economic, cultural, social and demographic terms as never before over the entire history of its existence,” Alexeyev added, calling on both citizens and non-citizens of the republic to sign the petition.
“I argue that the law on criminal liability for publicly denying or glorifying what it describes as Soviet occupation infringes on my freedom of speech, proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms,” the document says. “I reserve the right to express my opinion on the history of Latvia, wherever and whenever I want, and also publicly. I warn that in case of any attempt at prosecution for denying Soviet occupation I will use all means available to fight for my rights and freedoms.”
Last week, the legal commission of the Saeima - Latvia's parliament - approved amendments to the Criminal Law providing for a prison term of up to three years for those publicly denying or doubting, glorifying or justifying Soviet or Nazi aggression against Latvia. To take effect, the bill is due to be enacted in the third reading in the parliament and then approved by Latvian President Andris Berzins.