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Prince urges mercy for flower girl

LONDON, England -- Britain's Prince Charles has made a plea for leniency towards the girl who swiped at his face with a bunch of carnations during a walkabout in the Baltic state of Latvia.

Sixteen-year-old student Alina Lebedeva could face up to 15 years in prison if she is charged and found guilty of threatening the life and health of a foreign dignitary.

"It was an unfortunate but trivial incident which did not affect the Prince of Wales and we hope and trust the Latvian authorities will take that into account," the prince's office said in a statement.

Charles's spokeswoman said he hoped that Latvian authorities would not make more of the incident than it warranted.

The incident came when the heir to the British throne, who was on a tour of Baltic states, approached a group of children after laying a wreath at Latvia's Freedom Monument.

Lebedva suddenly lurched at him and swung carnations at his face, shouting in Russian a protest against the Western offensive in Afghanistan. The prince appeared startled.

As she was led away she said: "I'm protesting against Latvia joining NATO and I'm against the war in Afghanistan. Britain is the enemy."

The incident drew an immediate apology from Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who had been with the prince at the Freedom Monument.

She was quoted by the Press Association as saying: "The woman was clearly of ill mind. Of course I am sorry it happened but I'm sure the prince understands she was not very well."

Lebedva's father Nikolay, a musician, asked Queen Elizabeth's eldest son to intervene to try to prevent a hefty jail sentence.

He told the PA: "Prince Charles can help her. What she did, I don't understand, but it would be too harsh to send her to prison for 15 years.

"I would like him to say something to help us."

Officials said Charles, pictured earlier this year, was unaffected by the incident  

Prince Charles flew back to Britain on Friday night while officials said Lebedeva would remain in custody until Sunday.

A spokeswoman for the security police told PA police would be investigating whether anyone had "pushed" Alina into carrying out the attack. It would then be decided whether to bring the case to court.

One of her teachers, Tamara Vasilievna, who is also a family friend, told PA Alina had been in trouble before and last year disappeared on a six-day drinking spree in which she daubed graffiti onto public buildings.

Her mother even hired a private detective to keep an eye on the tearaway, an only-child, said Vasilievna.

She said: "Alina is a very clever girl and achieves eights and nines out of ten in all her subjects. She is a very capable girl but not hard-working. She believes in communism, unfortunately.

"I'm at a loss to know why she did it. It is a mystery. Her mother is such a great woman and very talented. They are a great family."

Vasilievna added: "I want Prince Charles to understand that the girl perhaps didn't want to harm him. She is kind and clever, but maybe she just wanted to make a protest."


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• The Prince of Wales
• Fact Sheets on Latvia

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