In two interviews, Deputy Chairman of the Central Election Commission (KQZ) Denar Biba has confirmed that he met European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judge Ledi Bianku in Strasbourg in June 2014 on the sidelines of an official meeting of the Albanian government with ECtHR President Dean Spielmann, after Exit published a tape yesterday in which Biba appears to blackmail Bianku.
Although Biba is an official of an independent state institution, he confirmed that he met with Bianku to discuss matters pertaining to the ECtHR, but denies to have blackmailed him. In the first interview, published in Gazeta Shqip, he states:
In no circumstance has it been an illegal interventions. Let the full and uncensored conversation be released and it will be understood that it has been a conversation between to friends discussing work issues. […] No form of blackmail and no form of intervention. […] There is absolutely nothing.
Biba also claimed to have been part of the official delegation, which appears incorrect. The official delegation consisted of then Deputy Prime Minister and current Minister of Agriculture Niko Peleshi, State Attorney Alma Hiçka, former Deputy Minister of Justice Idlir Peçi, and then director of the Agency for the Return and Compensation of Properties (AKKP) and current Minister of State for the Protection of Businesses Sonila Qato. However, Biba claims:
I have met my friend Ledi Bianku, among others also during the official visit to the ECtHR, where I was part of the delegation headed by the former Deputy Prime Minister [Niko Peleshi].
As regards part of the tape in which Biba appears to blackmail Bianku by suggesting he may remain out of work if he doesn’t help to put a stop to the property cases at the ECtHR against Albania, Biba claimed it was “montage”:
The metaphor of the train was in response to the question made by Bianku why I accepted the duty as chairman of the KPP, knowing that my aspiration for the Constitutional Court.
In his interview with Balkanweb, Biba further confirmed that he indeed met Bianku at the request of General Secretary of the Council of Ministers Engjëll Agaçi to discuss the property cases at the ECtHR:
I told him on the request of Agaçi, together with Peleshi about this request. It is impossible for someone to be blackmailed who had no control. […]
Engjëll Agaçi, the General Secretary, called me to assist Deputy Prime Minister Niko Peleshi as constitutional expert, with my expertise, with an official delegation to publicly seek pushing back the deadline for the Albanian state to pay immediately a considerable sum to owners who had been expropriated. The Albanian state sought a second postponement, that’s why we were there.
What remains difficult to believe, however, is that the Rama government would send a supposedly independent state official, in charge of one of the most important and impartial institutions in the country, the Central Election Commission, on a paid flight to Strasbourg to meet an independent ECtHR judge without ulterior motive.
After all, it is unheard of that the General Secretary of the Council of Ministers orders around a KQZ official to meet anyone. Biba is supposed to be a impartial, independent state official completely outside any influence from the government. Any trip at the request of the government, independent of any perceived “expertise,” is threat to this impartiality.
After calls from both PD leader Lulzim Basha and former Minister of Justice Petrit Vasili, sources at the Prosecution Office confirm that it has started an investigation into the recording and Biba’s previously unreported visit to Strasbourg.