From: Alice Taylor
Albanian CEC Allows Socialist Party Mayor who Hid Criminal Conviction to Remain in Office

The Albanian Central Election Commission has decided not to remove the Mayor of Mallakastra, Qerim Ismailaj, from his position, despite him failing to declare a past conviction on his decriminalization form, prior to running for office.

When running for public office, individuals must declare if they have ever been convicted of a criminal offense. Lying or concealing information on the form is a criminal matter in Albania. Ismailaj failed to mention a conviction in Greece before he ran for the 2019 local elections.

The CEC said it was unable to verify whether the conviction, for which Ismailaj received a sentence of three years in prison, was an offense that would warrant his removal from the post. Instead, they said the Prosecution decided his punishment for lying on the decriminalization form would be a fine and that Ismailaj will remain in office.

The Prosecution started verifying Ismailaj in January after the Democratic Party alleged he was convicted of a criminal offense in Greece. The Mayor has denied the sentence.

Ismailak’s lawyer claimed he could not be dismissed because he wasn’t aware of the sentence and did not lie in the decriminalization form. He claimed that the trial in Greece took place in absentia, and his client didn’t receive any notification of his sentence.

While Ismailaj may not have been aware of the sentence, he still has a conviction in Greece, as the prosecutor confirmed. This should preclude him from running from office.

He was the fourth PS mayor accused by the PD of hiding past convictions.

According to the PD, the mayor of Vau I Dejes, Mark Babani, was allegedly arrested and sentenced in Italy for stealing cars. They published a copy of a document they claim proves his guilt. Babani claimed innocence and vowed to sue the PD, but the case never materialized. He remains in office.

Candidate for Mayor of Shkodra, Valdin Pjetri, was forced to resign over hiding his past conviction for drug dealing. He called the arrest “banal” and said he had no guilt or responsibility for what took place.

The elected Mayor of Vore, Agim Kajmaku, was accused of hiding past convictions on his decriminalization form. He was declared wanted by the police, who then said they were unable to locate him.

Exit was able to locate him three times in three days, drinking coffee near the Police Directorate in Tirana, having another coffee next to his home in Vore, and walking down one of Tirana’s main streets. He was arrested shortly after Exit made his photo public, but he was then released.