Ilmārs Poikāns, the Latvian artificial intelligence researcher who reportedly admitted being the cyberactivist Neo, responsible for exposing government duplicity on salaries and spending, has been released after two days in jail.
Latvian police didn't ask that Poikān's pre-trial detention be extended and agreed to his release upon condition that he not leave the country and remain at one place of residence. It is not clear if Poikāns admission that he is Neo can be interpreted as an admission of guilt.
Neo disclosed, over several weeks, the month-by-month salary payments of a range of ministries, state agencies and state-owned companies. Many, but not all, had not followed government austerity guidelines and continued paying high salaries and bonuses to high-level managers while reducing salaries of ordinary employees.
Meanwhile several hundred Latvians demonstrated against Poikāns' arrest and the search and seizure of Latvian television journalist Ilze Nagla's home. Her laptop computer, containing working materials for her investigative weekly program DeFacto was seized along with an external hard disk and other media.
Two different protests, organized by communicating on the social media tool Twitter were held at the main Government House (the Cabinet of Ministers) and the Prosecutor's Office, both in downtown Riga, Protestors used chalk to write protest slogans on the broad sidewalk in front of the Cabinet of Ministers. These included demands to free Neo and for the protection of the freedom of the press in Latvia. Nagla appeared among the protestors and was given flowers by an admirer. She was interviewed by Swedish radio and local media. As in earlier interviews, she called the raid on her home late at night by plainclothes police an attack on the right of journalists to protect their sources and a frightening experience.
Nagla returned home alone around 10 pm and was confronted by a man in her stairwell who put his foot in her door before producing a search warrant requested by the police and authorized by a prosecutor (and approved the following day by a court). The search took around two hours. Police officials claimed the extraordinary search was necessary for operational purposes, a procedure the normally would be used to search the home of a person suspected of harboring a dangerous fugitive or preparing a terrorist attack.
A police spokesman also said that the search "was not aimed at Nagla's professional activities" although it resulted in most, if not all of her work-related electronic files being seized.
Aleksejs Loskutovs, a lawyer and the former head of the Bureau to Prevent and Combat Corruption (Latvian abbreviation KNAB) has offered to be Poikān's defense attorney. While a popular and sometimes controversial figure with political ambitions, Loskutovs admits he has no experience in press freedom cases and in what will be a political trial if charges are brought against the IT expert.