Albania Opposition Pans Acquittal Of Ex-PM


By Besar Likmeta

Socialist opposition leader Edi Rama criticised the Supreme Court on Tuesday over its acquittal of former Prime Minister Ilir Meta on corruption charges.

During a meeting in the southern town of Lushnja, Rama commented on the verdict in the case against Meta, a former member of Rama’s opposition Socialist Party.

Rama said the ruling “mocked the citizens of Albania and underlined that is another step toward an unjust regime,” local media reported.

Albania’s Supreme Court dismissed on Monday charges of corruption against former Prime Minister Ilir Meta over a state tender for a hydropower station.

The court ruled that there were no evidence to convict Meta, who was accused by a former economy minister of trying to influence him over the tender.

Prosecutors had sought a two-year prison sentence and a one million lek [€8300] fine for the former premier.

Meta was charged with corruption in May after a video, recorded in 2010, was broadcast appearing to show him discussing corrupt deals with former economy minister, Dritan Prifti.

Transcripts from the video appeared to show Meta asking Prifti, the former economy minister, to intervene in a hydropower plant concession tender. Meta also appeared to mention a bribe by a businessman of €700,000.

The former prime minister also appeared to ask Prifti to hire activists of his own party, the Socialist Movement for Integration, LSI. The LSI is the junior partner in the government of Prime Minister Sali Berisha. It controls the ministries of economy, foreign affairs and health.

The LSI, a splinter of the opposition Socialist Party headed by Rama, was created in 2004. Meta formerly served as Prime Minister in 2001, while he was one of the highest ranking leaders of the Socialist Party.

Although it only holds four parliamentary seats, the LSI came out as a kingmaker in the 2009 parliamentary elections, which were narrowly won by Berisha’s right-wing Democratic Party.

Meta is head of the LSI, and at the time of the recording was both deputy prime minister and foreign minister. The tape also appeared to show him boasting about influencing a Supreme Court trial involving the same hydropower plant.

Ilir Meta has repeatedly denied allegations of corruption.

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The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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