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Lithuanian Lawyers Claim Jewish Cemetery in Vilnius has moved

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Supreme Court in Lithuania

VILNIUS, October 1, 2020 - At a court hearing in Vilnius, lawyers representing the Turto Bankas have claimed that the Shnipishok cemetery has moved.

Turto Bankas is the government owned land bank who is also the lead developer in the plan to develop a conference center on a 500-year old Jewish cemetery.

The descendants of those buried in the 500-year old cemetery have initiated a legal action against the bank, with the aim of halting the development on property which according to Jewish law, is forbidden.

The claim by Turto Bankos, conflicts with earlier assertions by the Lithuanian government that the Sports Palace was situated in the middle of the Shnipishok graveyard.

The new line of defense by attorneys for Turto Bankas, is an attempt to claim that as it outside the cemetery government, the bank can go ahead with the development. Older maps show that the Sports Palace is located in the center of the cemetery.

Two expert witnesses, Dr. Shnyer Leiman and Professor Josifas Parasonis provided conclusive testimony that the Sports Center, the location of the proposed development, is situated at the heart of the cemetery. Eye witnesses who were present when the Sports Palace was built in 1971, say that they saw skeletal remains and bones being uprooted and crushed in the construction process. Archaeological experts have stated that there is a high probability that human remains are mixed into the foundations of the Sports Center.

Dr. Leiman said in response to the bank's claim, "Cemeteries don't have legs and can't be relocated."

Separately, although written testimony by expert witnesses was filed by attorneys for the plaintiffs in time, Judge Aistė Petravičienė has indicted that it was disrespectful to file them so close to the deadline. Accordingly, she will decide at a hearing on Tuesday, October 6, 2020, whether the court will accept them.

Human rights experts have warned that the Lithuanian court system is rigged and that it is unlikely that the court action will produce a fair result.

A decision by the court to allow the development on the Sports Palace could set a new legal precedent in European courts, allowing governments to legally desecrate cemeteries by changing the borders on maps.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs were Advocate Modestas Sriubas and Advocate Salvija Sriubienė.

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