By Edison Kurani
In an unprecedented way, the Albanian General Prosecution and the US Embassy to Tirana were involved in a debate filled with mutual accusations turning the situation in to an open war between them.
The first one to speak publicly was the US ambassador to Albania, Donald Lu.
He accused general attorney Adriatik Llalla of being against the reform in justice.
“Eagle eye is necessary for judicial reform. We are already seeing powerful people try to maintain their control over the courts and over the prosecutors. The most recent example of this is the action of Albania’s Prosecutor General. For more than 18 months he has consistently and loudly spoken against the judicial reform. In November and December, prosecutors tried and failed to seize the ILDKPKI computer servers that are vital for the vetting. Last Friday, as required by the new Constitution, there was a lottery for members of the new Judicial Appointments Council, one of several new institutions that will safeguard judicial independence. The lottery was conducted honorably by the Secretary General of the Parliament, but the Prosecutor General violated the spirit of the Constitution by sending a list of only three prosecutors to fill three positions.
The Constitution is clear that these Council members should be selected by random lottery. The Constitutional Court, the High Court, and the High Council of Justice each submitted longer lists of qualified persons for their positions on the Council. By contrast, the Prosecutor General chose the three prosecutorial positions himself by sending a list with only three names – selected with no transparency — to fill three vacancies”, were the series of accusations made by Mr. Lu against the Attorney General.
A few hours later, the Prosecution reacted against the declarations of the US ambassador to Tirana. The Prosecution said that “the General Attorney’s office has faced an open and unprecedented attack by the current ambassador to Tirana, Donald Lu”.
The Prosecution says that it has backed the reform in justice and launches this message for the US ambassador: “The Prosecution General would like to make it clear to Mr. Lu that if he’s used to be a lord in the Albanian politics, he cannot do this with the Prosecution”.
“Mr. Lu thinks that he has the fate of the Prosecution in his hand when he blackmails this institution in order to close investigations or by revoking visas. He and everyone else must understand that in order to deliver legal and constitutional obligations, the prosecutors of the Republic do not need visas. This pressure of the US ambassador to Tirana is Soros like pressure, aiming at manipulating public opinion and depreciating institutions”, said the Prosecution General, thus considering ambassador Lu as a man funded by Soros.
The Prosecution said that Mr. Lu’s reactions came after the Prosecution officially informed the most senior leaders of the Albanian state, the President of Republic and Speaker of Parliament on the “pressure and constant blackmailing of ambassador Lu against the Prosecution.”
In his letter, Mr. Llalla says that he was abusively and unlawfully rejected a diplomatic visa and this was also done to several senior prosecutors. According to him, this was personal vendetta by Lu “in continuation of the pressure that he has put against the General Prosecution”.
“As an open supporter of the Judicial Reform in Albania, Mr. Lu has put pressure on the Prosecution General to openly back the legal package, even in those cases of legal projects entirely against the Constitution and human rights, as it has also pointed out by the Venice Commission Opinion”.
Llalla says that he was threatened by Mr. Lu that “if he didn’t publicly back the legal changes, then there would be personal and institutional consequences.
But the accusations are made even more serious when Llalla says that “in more than one occasion, ambassador Lu has exerted pressure against the General Prosecution in order to discontinue inquiries on several companies that are suspected to have violated Albanian laws”.
“The most flagrant case which has been officially recorded and where the US ambassador to Tirana has directly intervened, was the investigation launched against oil company Bankers Petroleum. This company has been accused by the media and residents of the area where it exerts its activity, that it had caused irreparable damage to their health and property. For this, against any practice of diplomatic and legal communication, Mr. Lu has asked for the investigation to be discontinued, as there would be direct consequences on the General Prosecutor”, the letter says.
The General Prosecution says that it has launched an inquest on several MPs who were publicly and privately threatened “to secure votes for the voting of the Judicial Reform, much supported by him”.
Meanwhile, he denounces another worrying issue. According to him, several prosecutors who are investigating senior Albanian officials have been rejected US visas, “as these politicians have the support of the US ambassador”.
According to the General Prosecution, “these politicians have connections with the underworld”.
Under these circumstances, the General prosecutor says that “the behavior of the US ambassador to Tirana can also be considered as a personal vendetta against the General Prosecutions stances” and “the fact that this institution has not submitted to Mr. Lu’s pressure in relation to several concrete investigation issues, for which it is clear that he has had personal interests”.