Lithuania ex-judge returns home after US extradition
VILNIUS – A former Lithuanian judge wanted in connection with claims she made about a pedophile ring appeared at a detention hearing Thursday after being extradited to her home country from Chicago.
Neringa Venckiene, who faces charges that include submitting false reports regarding claims she made about the existence of a ring of influential pedophiles in Lithuania, arrived in the country late Wednesday, prosecutor Tomas Krusna said.
Venckiene was flown to Warsaw, Poland, and then taken by car to the Kaunas detention center in neighboring Lithuania — a 365-kilometer (230-mile) drive.
She appeared at a detention hearing Thursday, but the court said its ruling would be announced Friday. She remained in custody pending the decision.
Venckiene told the court she feels "fine" and denied any wrongdoing. She has said previously that the accusations against here are politically motivated.
The 48-year-old had waged a nearly two-year legal battle to avoid extradition. She was elected to the national parliament but fled the Baltic nation with her son to seek political asylum in the U.S. in 2013. Venckiene was arrested at Lithuania's request in early 2018 after an extradition request had been sent to the U.S. Justice Department.
Venckiene was a central figure in a scandal in Lithuania, a nation of 3 million people, where some say she is a heroine for exposing a seedy criminal network and others say she is as a manipulator who fabricated the pedophilia claims.
The once-rising judicial star led an anti-pedophilia movement that swept her and six others into Lithuania's Parliament in 2012. She had based her allegations about a pedophile network, in part, on a 2009 video in which her niece graphically describes several men sexually abusing her. But authorities said they weren't able to corroborate the girl's claims.
The events surrounding Venckiene included the slaying of another judge accused of molesting her niece, and the death of Venckiene's brother, who leveled the initial child-abuse accusation and was a suspect in the judge's murder.
Venckiene has said she feared for her life if she was returned to Lithuania.
Michael Tarm in Chicago and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.
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