Lithuanian goes on trial over alleged Islamist bomb plot
A Lithuanian woman went on trial behind closed doors in the Baltic state Thursday on charges of plotting a suicide bombing in Russia for an Islamist network.
Egle Kusaite, 21, denies the charges and claims that Lithuanian and Russian security forces used physical and mental pressure to force an earlier confession.
Kusaite, wearing jeans and a grey sweater, arrived at the court in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius with her mother and more than a dozen supporters who, along with reporters, were ordered to leave the chamber by the judge.
“I want the public to be fully informed about my case,” Kusaite said, as the judge ruled that the trial should take place behind closed doors.
“This whole process is unfair. They are afraid that people will hear how the evidence was collected,” she told reporters.
Prosecutor Mindaugas Duda said the decision was crucial.
“Witnesses who have anonymity will be questioned, and there is also a threat of disclosing methods of operational activity,” he told reporters.
Kusaite was arrested in October 2009, charged in May this year, and released from remand in August pending her trial.
She is accused of having plotted to strike at military targets related to the conflict in Chechnya, a southern, Muslim-majority region of Russia where Moscow has fought two wars with separatists since 1994.
Prosecutors claim that Kusaite developed a network of contacts with Islamist militants in Russia as well as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Britain.
Kusaite is a convert to Islam — the vast majority of Lithuania’s 3.3 million people are Roman Catholic — and claims that Lithuanian intelligence has been trying to set her up for several years.
Prosecutors have rejected that allegation.
They have also denied her claim that she was beaten and subjected to mental pressure by Lithuanian officers, and that Russian counterparts who came to the Baltic state as observers were allowed to interrogate and mistreat her.
Thursday’s hearing lasted three hours. The next session is scheduled for March.