- March 4, 2013
500 litas penalty for commemorating the January Uprising
Commander of the Vilnius Scouts’ Regiment, Lady of Ostra Brama, Rev. Dariusz Stanczyk will have to pay a fine of 500 litas for organizing an unauthorized march of about 100 scouts through the streets of Vilnius to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the January Uprising.
On Monday, it was ruled by the District Court of Vilnius. This is the minimum punishment that the court could have imposed on the priest for a similar offense. The maximum penalty is 1 500 litas.
– I consider the court’s decision very good – said Rev. Dariusz Stanczyk, commenting on the decision in his case. In his view, the decision proves that the idea of celebrating the anniversary of the January Uprising was understood in court and at the police station, where the priest was taken immediately after the March of Freedom, which took place in on the site of execution of leaders of the Uprising on the Lukiski Square and the Mount of Three Crosses.
The court did not find found any aggravating circumstances in the march, and the mitigating circumstances were the idea of the march itself, and that the priest was not previously recorded.
— It was the will of God — said the priest because, as noted, the intervention of the police to stop and the court’s judgment helped to promote the idea and value, which are pointed out on the march, in the entire Lithuania. The priest admitted that from across the country and abroad he received a lot of support and encouragement. The priest also highly valued the atmosphere that prevailed at the hearing.- It was a friendly! We felt a tremendous warmth from the court … — the priest told us. He also stressed that the judge, Virginija Liudvinavičienė, listened to all the explanations with great attention and welcomed the idea of his march. The court carefully listened to the arguments of the accused, which was also indicated by the duration of the trial. Instead of the usual several minutes, the trial lasted for over an hour.
The priest also notes the paradox that the fine is much less than what I would have had to pay for receiving permission to conduct the march. He promised, however, that he is not going to abuse this situation again and that in the future he will always ask the city council for permission to conduct similar events. All the more so that he was able to get the authorities to provide that the municipality will not charge fees from for organizing similar actions.
— We have an agreement with the support of our Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania — Stanczyk said.
The priest admitted that this year he deliberately did not apply for a permit. It was to be an act of protest against the January decision of Vilnius municipality to authorize the Equality Parade.
– This year was announced the year of the January Uprising, but the authorities did not show any initiative to celebrate the event. However, one week before the anniversary, the government authorized the parade of the Gay Pride in July. This is outrageous! Also, because the costs of organizing the parade will be covered by taxpayers, and the government demands from scouts many thousands of charge for their march — notes Rev. Stanczyk. According to him, in 2008, the organizers had to pay 700 litas for permission to march. In 2009, the total had risen to 1 500 litas, a year later, the city issued a bill for 2 500 thousand.
– I was afraid that this year we would have to pay even 5000 — says the priest, and notes that the cost of securing the 2010 Gay Pride parade, which has been covered by the city budget, amounted to as much as 250 000 litas.
The organizer of the150th anniversary of the January Uprising wants to draw the government’s attention to the fact that those actions which have a religious, educational or patriotic nature were exempt from administrative fees. It’s not only about us. Government licensing has to make rational decisions, and follow the ethics in their resolve — tells us Father Dariusz Stanczyk.
On January 22, the priest marched through the streets of Vilnius with young scouts. The march was begun by placing wreaths on the Lukiski Square, where the main commander of the uprising was buried. Then the youth went from the Mount of Gediminas to the Castle hill, and from there they went to the Mount of Three Crosses, where Rev. Dariusz Mass celebrated a mass. After the prayer the priest was arrested by the police due to lack of permission to hold the event. On February 20 at the Vilnius Court, there was held a hearing during which the priest clarified the situation.
On March 4, the court ruled the penalty – there was set a fine for the priest.
Tłumaczenie Emil Iracki w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Emil Iracki the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.