Kovno (May. 18)
A former Lithuanian Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, M. Petrulis, who during his term of office was engaged in an outspoken antisemitic policy, which caused serious hardships to the Jewish population of the country, has to-day been found guilty of misappropriating Government funds, and has been sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment and fined 90,000 lei (about Â£2,000), and in addition he has been deprived of his political rights.
The trial, which has been in progress all through the past week, attracted country-wide attention. Two former Premiers, Professor Voldemaras and M. Galvanauskas, appeared as withesses, as well as many high Government officials. M. Petrulis admitted that there had been constant friction between him and the Government Finance Controller, M. Karablim, on account of certain sums he had withdrawn from the secret fund for purposes for which he could not give a public account. He contended that it was not the duty of the Controller to know for what purpose this secret fund was drawn upon. That was the business only of the Cabinet.
The Yiddish press in Kovno has been recalling in connection with this trial that as far back as November 1925 the question of M. Petrulis’s financial activities was brought up in Parliament, a complaint being #ade that on his instructions the Lithuanian National Bank had in August 1925 paid out about two million lit of Government funds to the Trade and Industry Bank for the purpose of buying valuta. The Bank, it was said,
had never had any real existence, and soon after went bankrupt without accounting for the money. The Government of the antisemitic Christian Democratic Psrty, to which M. Petrulis belongs, hushed up the matter, however, by stating that everything had been explained to its satisfaction.
It was under the Government of M. Petrulis that the last vestigess of Jewish autonomy in Lithuania were destroyed, and the position of Minister for Jewish Affairs, which was held first by Dr. Soloweitchik, who afterwards became a member of the Zionist world Executive, and then by Dr. S. Rosenbaum, now the Lithuanian Consul in Palestine, was abolished.
In 1926, when the Socialist Government of M. Slesewicz came into power, it was stated that documents had been found in the Government archives showing that the Petrulis Government had been plotting to provoke pogroms against the Jews of Lithuania. A number of documents found in the archives were published at the time by the Kovno Jewish daily, “Yiddishe Stimme”, including pogrom proclamations and forged documents, the purpose of which was to give a basis for an agitation that the Jews and the other minorities had been engaged in treasonable activities against the Lithuanian State. Some of the expressions used in the proclamations which were to have been circulated through the Government were of the most inflammatory character, accusing the Jews of being the murderers of Christ and the enemies of Lithuania.
The Premier, M. Slesewicz, announced in Parliament that the previous Government had squandered millions of money from State funds in order to promote its reactionary party purposes, adding that he intended to impeach the ex-Premier, M. Bistras (the immediate successor to M. Petrulis), for illegal use of State funds.