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Albanian courts continue to issue lenient verdicts in cases involving corruption in the judiciary, hobbling Albania’s fight against the phenomenon.
|Judges in Tirana's Disctrict Court read verdict | Photo by : Hektor Pustina/AP|
A court in the city of Fier earlier this week freed three suspects found guilty of a an attempt to bribe Albania’s Supreme Court.
Although prosecutors proved that the three defendants attempted to influence a verdict in a murder trial, they won’t serve time in prison after their sentences were suspended on humanitarian grounds.
The presiding judge suspended the sentences on the grounds that all three defendants had young children.
The three defendants tried to influence the Supreme Court trial of Vilson Millaraj, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison for murder.
“From the interceptions [phone tapping] it emerged that two of the suspects were collecting huge sums of money to resolve the case in Millaraj’s favor,” prosecutors said in February.
“The person promising to resolve the case in the Supreme Court, Agron Lumeshi, is a relative of the presiding judge [Gani Dizdari],” they noted.
Although the Supreme Court on May 11, 2011 upheld the sentence imposed on Millaraj, prosecutors maintain that the suspects had been informed that they were under surveillance and that they were notified of the court's ruling the day before it was issued.
Prosecutor’s believe the Supreme Court judges were tipped off too that the case was under investigation, prompting them to uphold the ruling. They have appealed the ruling against the three defendants.
The case against Dizdari’s nephew was one of the highest profile corruption cases involving Albania’s highest court, which has been under fire from the public and the media, accused of using dubious procedural grounds to close several corruption cases against government ministers.
Prosecutors in Albania are severely hampered in investigating judges because the latter have immunity under the law.
Albania’s General Prosecutor Ina Rama has called several times for a constitutional amendment to restrict the immunity of judges, in order to strengthen the fight against corruption in the judiciary.
Speaking before the law commission in parliament last week, Rama underlined that even in those few cases where they have been able to collect strong evidence and send corrupt judges and prosecutors to trial, courts have issued not guilty verdicts.
“There is a sort of corporatism between judges to protect each other and prosecutors [indicted for corruption],” Rama said.
“They don’t view the case as an indictment against a judge or prosecutor but rather as an indictment against a friend or colleague,” she concluded.
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