US embassy cable - 06TIRANA436

BERISHA VS. SOLLAKU: A HIGH LEVEL SMACKDOWN

Identifier: 06TIRANA436
Wikileaks: View 06TIRANA436 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Tirana
Created: 2006-05-02 15:19:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PGOV AL
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
VZCZCXYZ0002
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHTI #0436/01 1221519
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 021519Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY TIRANA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4192
INFO RUEHTH/AMEMBASSY ATHENS 2895
RUEHBW/AMEMBASSY BELGRADE 2696
RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1121
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1180
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1071
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 5246
RUEHVJ/AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO 0416
RUEHSQ/AMEMBASSY SKOPJE 4092
RUEHVB/AMEMBASSY ZAGREB 2919
RUFNPKB/COMUSNAVEUR NAPLES IT
RUEAWJA/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 2138
RUEHPS/USOFFICE PRISTINA 3394
C O N F I D E N T I A L TIRANA 000436 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EUR/SCE (BENEDICT, SAINZ) 
NSC FOR BRAUN 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/02/2016 
TAGS: PGOV, AL 
SUBJECT: BERISHA VS. SOLLAKU:  A HIGH LEVEL SMACKDOWN 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Marcie B. Ries for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
1.  (C)  SUMMARY:  Over the last eight months, PM Berisha and 
his allies have engaged in a campaign to dump General 
Prosecutor Sollaku, claiming he is a major obstacle to 
progress in the fight against crime and corruption.  Berisha 
has publicly accused Sollaku of everything from laziness to 
ties with organized crime in an effort to discredit his 
one-time legal advisor and force him out of office.  Sollaku, 
whose energy and record of accomplishment as the Government's 
chief Prosecutor might be questionable, has been able to hold 
his position because by law he can only be replaced by the 
President, and Moisiu is reluctant to allow Berisha to run 
roughshod over his prerogatives.  This eight-month battle 
came to a head May 2 as the DP began arguments to have 
Parliament embark on a formal investigation of Sollaku's 
conduct -- an investigation which DP parliamentarians hope 
will end in either his dismissal or resignation. While 
Sollaku clearly has not been energetic enough in the fight 
against crime and corruption, Berisha's public and thus-far 
unsubstantiated charges of corruption are clearly 
inconsistent with an emphasis on rule of law. It is likely 
that the DP majority will decide to fire Sollaku even though 
the Constitution sets the bar for proof of misconduct very 
high.  Meanwhile, much energy will be wasted and much of the 
good work the DP has done on its domestic program 
overshadowed by this unseemly dispute. This may also end in a 
difficult Constitutional confrontation between a Parliament 
demanding the GP's removal and President who insists on 
defending him.   End Summary. 
 
A PLANNED ATTACK 
 
2.  (C)  Since coming to power in September 2005, the DP-led 
government has waged a public and increasingly harsh campaign 
to remove General Prosecutor Sollaku from his post.  Under 
Albanian law, however, the President is the only person who 
can actually order the dismissal of the General Prosecutor 
(GP) and, thus far, President Moisiu has given no indication 
that he intends to dismiss Sollaku.  PM Berisha has 
spearheaded the anti-Sollaku drive, initially instructing 
Speaker Topalli to simply demand in a private meeting that 
Sollaku resign on the grounds that he simply has not pursued 
his job with sufficient energy and seemed unable or unwilling 
to "play ball" with the government's vigorous anti-corruption 
program.  Stymied by Sollaku with Moisiu behind him, Berisha 
recently decided to play hardball by stating in an emotional 
television appearance that Sollaku has ties to criminal 
elements. 
 
3.  (C)  In Parliament, initial indications are that the DP 
intends to revisit GP action/inaction in over 80 particular 
cases. The DP noted six specific categories of inquiry: 
 
-- failure to resolve "serious and shocking" criminal cases; 
-- serving as an instrument of political blackmail against 
MPs; 
-- failure to prosecute charges on organized trafficking 
issues; 
-- abuse of office; 
-- issuing illegal orders; and 
-- applying a double standard in cases involving relatives of 
people in power. 
 
BERISHA AND SOLLAKU HAVE A HISTORY 
 
4.  (C)  At first glance, Berisha and the DP's targeting of 
Sollaku would seem apolitical -- Sollaku was Berisha's legal 
advisor from 1992-1996 and no one claims that he is 
affiliated with the opposition-leading Socialist Party (SP). 
Appointed by President Meidani in 2002, Sollaku's designation 
was initially welcomed by Berisha.  (Note: There is no time 
limit for a GP's term in office).  As overall perceptions of 
crime and corruption worsened considerably over the next 
three years, Berisha made the fight against corruption the 
centerpiece of his party's campaign to return to power in 
2005.  As the country's chief law enforcement officer during 
a time of relatively few prosecutions of serious corruption 
or organized crime, Sollaku was painted by Berisha as "part 
of the problem."  Sollaku himself has vigorously denied the 
so far unsubstantiated allegations against him and has taken 
particular umbrage at recent attempts to question the actions 
of his wife, a judge on Tirana's Court of Appeals. 
 
ANXIETY OVER DP TACTICS 
 
5.  (C)  The DP's campaign against Sollaku has provoked 
considerable consternation and much hand-wringing among 
opposition parties and some, but not all, constitutional 
scholars.  The opposition has framed the debate as one of a 
struggle against Berisha's authoritarian tendencies, and 
claim that Berisha intends to subjugate the independence of 
the GP's office to his will.  The opposition and others also 
claim that the DP's tactics and ultimate goal are 
unconstitutional. 
 
CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES AND DUE PROCESS 
 
6.  (C) Under Albanian law, the President may dismiss the GP 
upon the proposal of Parliament.  The Constitution also 
provides that Parliament may instigate investigations for 
dismissal of the GP for the following reasons: "serious 
violations of the law during the exercise of his duties, for 
mental or physical incapacity, and for acts and behavior that 
seriously discredit the position and reputation of the 
Prosecutor." 
 
7.  (C)  The legal debate centers on whether this particular 
investigation ruNs afoul of the constitutional provision that 
prohibits Parliament from bringing criminal charges or 
exercising the attributes of courts.  Some claim that 
Sollaku's due procecs rights have already been violated due 
to the publicity the DP has brought to allegations against 
him and because Sollaku has been given only a brief amount of 
time to formally respond to Parliament.  Sollaku supporters 
also say that the Constitution implicitly forbids Parliament 
from requiringSollaku to give an account of specific cases 
or decisions.  This point is apparently based on article 53 
of the Constitution which says that the GP cannot inform 
Parliament on specific cases, but only on the state of 
criminality in general. 
 
8.  (C)  A somewhat similarin 2002 when 
Parliament,n a formal investigation, to dismiss then General P`ts and behavior 
that seri`sition and reputation of tcase, 
President Meidani dismissed Rakipi. 
RakipQ QQ the Constitutional Court,  Q@pocess rights had been vioQ    Q Q@QQ@d 
been given an opportunit1 Q Q  Q Q Q`QQ@@QAAnt's accusations.  The co5Q  Q`Q``Q `QAaQA@@Qr, 
h/lding that due process rights applied to disciplinary 
proceedings as well as court proceedings.  Nonetheless, 
Parliament subsequently ignored the ruling and Rakipi was 
replaced by Sollaku. 
 
HOW IS HE DOING? 
 
9.  (C)  To date, no one has come forward with any specific 
evidence demonstrating that Sollaku has ties to crime.  When 
asked, Parliament Speaker Topalli told the Ambassador that 
she had no evidence herself Sollaku was dirty, but was 
absolutely convinced that the investigation would reveal 
something.  OSCE's Head of Mission Vacek told us he was 
"unsatisfied" with Sollaku's explanations to him about 
prosecutions in Vlore involving organized criminal activity. 
Our OPDAT specialist, who has worked closely with Sollaku 
over the past two and a half years, said that he is unaware 
of anything suggesting criminal ties.  Nevertheless, he has 
also been frustrated, at times, with Sollaku's apparent lack 
of aggressiveness in pursuing some cases, the most notable of 
which being charges of bribery against former Ambassador 
Tarifa. (Note: OPDAT's specialist said that Sollaku had a 
videotape of Tarifa discussing a bribe, but would not pursue 
the case without "more documents.") 
 
COMMENT:  DIRTY POLITICS BUT PROBABLY CONSTITUTIONAL...SO FAR 
 
10.  (C)  Politics here is a hard-edged game and the public 
campaign against Sollaku, however unseemly, should come as no 
surprise.  The real issue is whether Berisha and company 
will, deliberately or inadvertently, cross the line and 
interfere with an independent institution in an 
unconstitutional manner.  On this score, we believe that 
Parliament's investigation is an appropriate legal path for 
the GoA to follow, but the degree of publicity surrounding it 
and the fairness accorded to Sollaku to respond may present 
due process issues. 
 
11.  (C)  Whatever the outcome of the investigation -- almost 
certain to be a muddled affair at best -- Sollaku's ultimate 
fate may already be predetermined.  Even if Moisiu refuses to 
dismiss him, Sollaku's ability to do his job effectively may 
already be too compromised given the ugliness of the dispute. 
 Lurking in the background are also increasing doubts from 
more objective viewers about Sollaku's competence.  His 
supporters are notably silent on how good a job he has done 
and Sollaku's attempts to rally the international community 
to his side have been both clumsy and ineffective.  In the 
end, his legacy may be one of a staunch defender of the 
independence of the GP's office, but as a mediocre fighter 
against crime and corruption. 
 
12.  (C)  If Sollaku is dismissed, he would be the second GP 
in a row to suffer such a fate.  The opposition will claim, 
and perhaps rightly, that Sollaku's dismissal would cause 
irreparable injury to the independence of the GP's office. 
There will also be speculation that Berisha's thirst for full 
control of the apparatus of crime enforcement will only be 
fueled more by a "victory" against Sollaku and that other 
independent institutions would be at greater risk of 
political interference.  The validity of the later charge 
will likely depend on the strength of the DP's case against 
Sollaku, the manner in which the President acts, and the 
degree to which Sollaku's successor is viewed as a strong, 
independent (read: consensual) personality or simply as a DP 
puppet. 
RIES 

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