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Liberal Polish Priest Sacked, Tymoshenko Rival Faces U.S. Lawsuit

Plus, the Hague tribunal denies barring family visits to Serb nationalist leader Seselj, and activists denounce a new Moldovan ‘child protection’ law.

by Ioana Caloianu, Ky Krauthamer, Vladimir Matan, and Molly Jane Zuckerman 23 July 2013

1. Liberal Polish priest sacked for disobedience


Poland’s Roman Catholic Church justified the dismissal of an outspoken priest, citing his “lack of respect and obedience to the bishops, as well as to the teaching of diocesan bishops in Poland on bioethics issues,” Polskie Radio writes. Father Wojciech Lemanski, a parish priest in Jasienica, a town east of Warsaw, was dismissed 5 July by the archbishop of the Warsaw-Praga diocese, Henryk Hoser.


Wojciech Lemanski
Lemanski, according to the diocese, “became a voluntary hostage of the media, caused great harm to the church, and created grave confusion and anxiety in society,” Polskie Radio writes, citing the Polish  Press Agency.


Lemanski had been at odds with the Polish church hierarchy over its attitude toward sexual abuse claims against clergymen and its rejection of  in vitro fertilization and contraception, Spiegel Online writes.


Lemanski said his relations with Hoser grew frosty in 2010 over his calls for rapprochement between Catholics and Jews. Hoser told him “this is not a circle that is worth having contacts with” and asked if he was circumcised, Polskie Radio writes. In a statement released 20 July, the church denies that this was the reason behind Lemanski’s dismissal.


Despite strong support from his congregation, Lemanski decided to give up his position and await a ruling from Vatican about the dispute, according to Spiegel Online.  


Spiegel quotes Pawel Wronski, a commentator with the left-of-center daily Gazeta Wyborcza, as writing that the Lemanski affair highlights a “major conflict over what shape the church should take. Should it be more open and engage with believers and non-believers – or should it be a shamanic church?”


TOL's Martin Ehl wrote in 2010 that almost 60 percent of Poles would use artificial insemination if they couldn’t have children, in sharp contrast to the church's condemnation of the treatment.


2. New Moldovan law could be used against gays, activists claim


Gay rights advocates in Moldova say an amendment approved by lawmakers with no public discussion could be used against the promotion of homosexuality similar to controversial laws recently passed in Russia and Lithuania, Radio Free Europe reports.

Several dozen people took part in Chisinau's first gay pride parade, held in May. From a video by crdefenders/YouTube

The measure strengthens existing child-protection legislation, adding a fine of about $625 for “the distribution of public information aimed at the propagation of prostitution, pedophilia, pornography, or of any other [intimate] relations [other] than those related to marriage or family.”


Angela Frolov, head of the Chisinau gay rights group GenderDoc-M, said her organization learned of the amendment only after it took effect on 12 July, a week after being signed by President Nicolae Timofti. She said it contradicts Moldova's EU-backed anti-discrimination law and international law.


Parliament passed the amendment and some 16 other laws in May with little fanfare, according to RFE.


The European Parliament’s cross-party LGBT rights group criticized Moldovan politicians for “secretly” adopting the law, saying in an 18 July statement, “Politicians specifically sought to avoid debating the bill in public.”


The parliament warned Moldova in May against adopting laws similar to Russia's ban on the promotion of homosexuality.


Ghenadi Ciobanu, a member of the Liberal Democrats and one of the three legislators to sponsor the amendment, said it was not inspired by Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law, and insisted that it complies with “all European standards and normative documents on freedom of expression,” RFE reports.


3. After drubbing, Albanian centrist party chooses new leader


Albania’s center-right Democratic Party has chosen a new leader to replace outgoing Prime Minister Sali Berisha. Lulzim Basha, the mayor of Tirana, will now lead the party in opposition, after the rival Socialists won the 23 June national elections. After the party’s unexpected poor showing, Berisha, arguably the most influential Albanian politician since the communist dictator Enver Hoxha, announced his retirement.


Berisha will remain in office until Socialist leader Edi Rama becomes prime minister, probably in September, although he may stay active in Democratic party affairs, Balkan Insight writes. Basha is thought to be Berisha’s hand-picked successor.


The long-running rancor between the country’s two biggest parties seems unlikely to cool now that the Democrats have a new leader, if Basha's statements 22 July are any guide. He repeated the party’s claim of irregularities in last month’s election and spoke of “criminal actions” by the party and Rama, the Top Channel television station reported.


On 20 July officials acting on a complaint by the Democratic Party ordered a recount in two districts.


4. Hague rejects Seselj’s mistreatment claims


The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague has rejected the Serbian Radical Party’s allegations that defendant Vojislav Seselj has not been allowed to see his family, Balkan Transitional Justice reports.


The court’s spokeswoman, Magdalena Spalinska, said Seselj, who has remained the nationalist party’s formal leader during his decade-long detention, “can receive visits from family and friends.” She stated that his visits are being monitored because he has “abused his communication facilities.”


The court earlier forbade Seselj from direct contact with one of his representatives, Nemanja Sarovic, because Seselj was using the visits to send out political messages against tribunal rules.


Seselj is on trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Bosnia, Croatia, and the Serbian province of Vojvodina. He surrendered to the tribunal 2003 and the trial began in 2007. A verdict is expected by October.


Meanwhile, the trials continue of the former Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.


Two units implicated in the Srebrenica massacre were under Mladic’s ultimate control, former Bosnian Serb general, Ljubomir Obradovic, testified last week, Balkan Transitional Justice reported. Obradovic was on sick leave during the events of July 1995 when about 7,000 Muslim men were shot by Serbian forces. He denied ever explicitly hearing Mladic ordering the killings.


On 11 July the tribunal reinstated genocide charges against Karadzic. Judge Theodor Meron said “the evidence shows that Bosnian Muslims and Croats were faced with conditions aimed at their destruction in detention facilities,” including physical abuse, sexual harassment, and other rights violations.


5. Ukrainian tycoon Firtash faces fresh lawsuit in New York


A lawsuit filed in New York accuses Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash of organizing “a campaign of fraud, physical threats, coercion, and corruption” to gain control of a soy processing plant in Ukraine, Courthouse News Service reports.


Dmitry Firtash
The suit filed in New York County Supreme Court by Russia-born brothers Vadim and Ilya Segal accuses Firtash of exploiting his connections with the administration of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to launch a takeover of a large soybean processor, Kakhovka Prom Agro, according to Courthouse News Service.

The Segal brothers live in the United States. Their suit is the latest to be brought in a U.S. court against Firtash, one of Ukraine’s richest businessmen.


In March, a U.S. district court in New York dismissed a complaint brought by imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko against Firtash and RosUkrEnergo, a gas transport company he co-owns, the Russian Legal Information Agency reported, citing Kommersant Ukraine.


Tymoshenko, herself a onetime gas oligarch, is serving a seven-year sentence for negotiating a disadvantageous agreement that locks Ukraine into paying high prices for Russian gas.


A judge upheld a request for dismissal by several U.S. companies who were accused in the suit of involvement in Tymoshenko’s imprisonment and participating in fraudulent actions allegedly undertaken by RosUkrEnergo.


Firtash is both an intimate of Yanukovych and, according to secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, a friend of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, scholar David Marples wrote in a recent commentary. Yushchenko headed the “Orange Revolution” against Yanukovych's rigged victory in the 2003 presidential election.


Yushchenko was “incensed” over Tymoshenko’s gas deal with Russia, which took place during his presidency, Marples writes, and claimed to have no prior knowledge of it. The deal added to the growing rift between the former Orange Revolution allies, he writes, the more so because it shunted Firtash out of the lucrative trade in reselling Russian gas to Ukraine.





Ioana Caloianu is a TOL editorial assistant. Ky Krauthamer is a senior editor at TOL. Vladimir Matan and Molly Jane Zuckerman are TOL editorial interns.
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