Gataev case: main supporter detained

Lithuanian authorities detain the main supporter of the Gataevs in an attempt to suppress positive evidence in their trial

Agents of the Lithuanian State Security Department (VSD) detained Gintautas Bukauskas, the main supporter of Malik and Khadizhat Gataev, who run an orphanage for Chechen children in Kaunas and Grozny, on 2 March 2009.

The Gataevs are currently on trial under charges of extorting money from and issuing death threats to their foster children. Another case has been opened by the prosecutor whereby the Gataevs are charged with human trafficking.

Mr Bukauskas was stopped on the street while walking together with a lawyer whom he had contacted to arrange for the defence of one of the victims in the court case, Denis Volkovsky, one of the adult children in the Gataev orphanage.

Denis was interrogated for six hours at the VSD’s Kaunas office on 25 February 2009, after he had expressed his wish to testify in favour of his foster parents. The VSD threatened to imprison the youth or deport him form Lithuania if he failed to testify against his foster parents. Denis was diagnosed with psychological trauma and had to seek treatment after the interrogation.

Simultaneously with the arrest of Mr Bukauskas, the prosecutor in the Gataev case, Ms Nomeda Oškutyte, and VSD agents made a search at the office of Mr Bukauskas’s translation agency in Kaunas. The search and arrest warrants stated that Mr and Mrs Bukauskas were suspected of falsifying documents linked to the case of Malik and Khadizhat Gataev.

This was the second search at the Bukauskas translation agency. The first one took place on 2 February 2009, when Prosecutor Oškutyte and two law enforcement officials confiscated two desktop computers and all the available files of documents at the office, thus depriving Mr and Mrs Bukauskas of the means to run their business. The Bukauskas were advised to stay away from the Gataev case, lest Mr Bukauskas be detained for two weeks.

Yesterday, the prosecutor and VSD also performed a search at the flat of Mr and Mrs Bukauskas, confiscating some of Mr Bukauskas’s notebooks and photographs. One of the photos appeared in the article in Lithuanian daily Lietuvos Rytas later in the day.

The article stressed the link between Mr Bukauskas and Malik and Khadizhat Gataev, currently on trial, and also provided unsubstantiated information about an earlier criminal investigation of Mr Bukauskas’s activities that had allegedly been initiated but then “unexpectedly and surprisingly stopped.”

The unlawful usage of the photo obtained by the prosecutor and VSD agents during the search at Mr and Mrs Bukauskas’s flat indicates that the Kaunas prosecutor’s office and the newspaper, Lietuvos Rytas, are cooperating closely in an attempt to create a negative public image of Mr Bukauskas.

The court will decide today with regard to prolonging the detention of Mr Bukauskas. Under Lithuanian law, a person can be detained for 48 hours before any charges are brought. Also, the third court hearing in the Gataev case will take place today at the Kaunas City District Court.

Ieva Raubiško

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