US Ambassador Lu Denies Request to Arrest Ilir Meta, Attacks Llalla

Yesterday, media outlet Lapsi published a letter written by former General Prosecutor Adriatik Llalla on May 17, 2017, to the US Congress. The letter gives Llalla’s perspective on the progress of the judicial reform, but contains one specifically damning account of Ambassador Lu intervening directly into the work of the Prosecution Office:

[I]n May 2015, Ambassador Lu asked for an appointment with the General Prosecutor. At this meeting, […] in a non-diplomatic manner and against any norm provided by the Vienna Convention, Ambassador Lu suggested to the General Prosecutor that he should arrest the President of the Assembly and also the Speaker of the Socialist Movement for Integration [LSI] Ilir Meta. In the assessment of Mr. Lu, the Parliament Speaker Meta was corrupt and was hindering the Justice Reform. His possible arrest would help Albania to integrate as quickly as possible in the European Union. Such a request, completely irresponsible, forced the General Prosecutor to interrupt the meeting, explaining that the arrest of any person, including officials, is only carried out on the basis of evidence.

The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations dates to 1961 and both the US and Albania are party to the treaty. Art. 41 clearly stipulates that diplomats “have a duty not to interfere in the internal affairs of the State.” If Llalla’s letter to US Congress, written nearly a year ago, is true, Ambassador Lu’s behavior is indeed a clear violation of that principle.

In a statement to news outlet Balkanweb, Ambassador Lu rejected Llalla’s claims:

He has claimed that within four months of my arrival in Tirana, I would have said that former Speaker of Parliament Ilir Meta should be arrest. That is an absurd lie by Mr. Llalla, without any basis in facts. His insulting lie is an offence to President Meta and the Albanian people.

Besides denying that he would have requested Llalla to arrest Meta, Ambassador Lu went even further, attacking Llalla personally:

The former General Prosecutor Llalla is a corrupted and discredited public official, who is under active investigation for money laundering and massive unjustified wealth. It is not surprising that he continues to speak against the judicial reform because he now risks to go to jail for his corruption.

Apart from the vehemence of this attack, which certainly should raise some eyebrows back in Washington, there has been no declaration of the Prosecution Office that Llalla is indeed under investigation for “money laundering and massive unjustified wealth,” as Exit was able to confirm recently.

The only other place that has mentioned a criminal investigation of Llalla has been a recent article in Deutsche Welle, which mentions a criminal investigation into for “money laundering of great magnitude,” based on “diplomatic sources in Tirana.”

After finishing his legal term as General Prosecutor, Adriatik Llalla chose not to exercise his right to be reinstated in the judicial system. As a result, the Independent Qualification Commission has interrupted his vetting on February 16. Although the Public Commissioner has appealed this decision to the Appeals College, the Constitution is clear about the fact that assessees may withdraw from the vetting process at any time by resigning from their function.

Furthermore, it should be noted that Llalla has not spoken about the judicial reform recently. The letter reported by Lapsi dates back to May 2017. So for Lu to claim that Llalla “continues to speak against the judicial reform because he now risks to go to jail for his corruption” is curious, because he has neither spoken out against the reform, nor has the Public Prosecution announced any investigation.

Finally, even if there is an (unknown) investigation into Llalla’s assets, for a foreign diplomat to call a former General Prosecutor “corrupted and discredited” without any conviction in a court of law is as much a violation of the Vienna Convention as his call to arrest a Speaker of Parliament.