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Kaunas (Lithuania), July 8, 2018 (AFP) - One hundred hot air balloons floated over Lithuania's second city of Kaunas on Saturday to mark 100 years of the Baltic state's independence.

"The first hot air balloon festival was in 1988 during Soviet times when flying balloons was formally forbidden, but no one could keep us on the ground," organiser Gintaras Surkus, a pioneer of the activity in Lithuania, told AFP.

One balloon flew a 100-metre-long national flag, while others were in shapes including hearts and cats.

"Hot air balloons are associated with the idea of freedom," Lukas Mikelevic, a 23-year-old psychology student who is also a balloon and aeroplane pilot, told AFP before launching.

"So many balloons taking off from the city centre -- it's unheard of," he added.

Poles, Latvians, Estonians and Chinese enthusiasts also came to fly their balloons in Kaunas.

Until World War I, Lithuania was a province of the Russian empire, which sought to crush nationalism and even banned the Lithuanian alphabet.

BUCHAREST, Romania, May 31, 2018 (New Wires) — The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Romania and Lithuania allowed the detention and abuse of a Saudi and a Palestinian at secret U.S. prisons.

The Strasbourg-based court said Thursday that Abd al-Rahim Al Nashiri, a Saudi national later sent to Guantanamo Bay, was detained and abused in Romania between Sept. 2003 and Oct. 2005, and urged Romania to investigate and punish perpetrators. Romania denies hosting such CIA facilities.

The court said Lithuania hosted a secret CIA detention facility from February 2005 to March 2006 where Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian suspected of being a planner for the Sept. 11 attacks, was detained.

Al Nashiri’s lawyer Amrit Singh, called the ruling “a sharp rebuke to Romania’s shameful attempts” to conceal its hosting of a secret CIA prison.