In its first decision, only two weeks since its establishment, yesterday the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office (SPAK) demanded the court to drop the case against three judges who were being investigated on corruption charges.
Judges Skender Damini, Petrit Aliaj and Aleks Nikolli reduced the sentence of infamous crime boss Dritan Dajti from life imprisonment to 25 years in prison. SPAK prosecutor Klodian Braho requested the court the drop the case against them for lack of evidence.
However, Judge Miliana Muça refused prosecutor Braho’s request and demanded him to continue investigations for three more months.
Dajti had been on the run since 2004, when he escaped from the court room, where he was on trial for killing a businessman. In 2009 he was spotted by 4 policemen in Durres and he killed them.
In 2014, Dajti received 4 life imprisonments for killing the police officers. The case went to the Court of Appeal, and then to the High Court, which order the Court of Appeal to review the case. At that time, all judges at the Court of Appeal had already been part of a panel on Dajti’s trial, and none of them could review his case again. Hence, 5 district judges were brought in.
At this point, Dajti requested the Court of Appeal to have an abbreviated trial, which means that the defendant can get 1/3 sentence reduction. As a result of the three judges’ votes in the five-member panel, in February 2019 Dajti’s sentence came down to 25 years in prison.
The sentence caused public outrage. The government, opposition and Western embassies condemned the court verdict.
The trial against Dajti had been ongoing for 10 years and the defendant had repeatedly challenged the court, threatened judges and prosecutors on live television.
The government then moved in against the three judges, with police searching their houses after a court warrant at Serious Crimes Prosecutor Klodian Braho’s request. Back then, the police stated that judges were suspected of having abused their office and rendered a ruling in violation of the law.
An illegal fire arm and ammunition, as well as €20,000 were found in one of the judges’ house, Skënder Damini. An investigation for corruption was launched against the three judges.
Prosecutor Braho became member of SPAK in late December 2019, and only two weeks after he requested the court to drop the case against the three judges. He argued that the allegations of corruption were not proven, so there is no criminal offence.
Art.403 of the Penal Code prescribes that the “request for abbreviated trial for criminal offences punishable with life imprisonment shall not be allowed.” It’s not clear how the prosecutor has justified the three judges’ decision to accepted Dajti’s request and reduce his sentence, as well as the illegal weapon and ammunition, and the cash found in judge Damini’s house.
It remains to be seen what further investigations demanded yesterday by the court will bring. However, the first decision by the long-awaited Special Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office seems far from its proclaimed professionalism and determination to fight corruption and crime at the highest levels.