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Sadiki retrial saga goes on

AS SLOVAKIA’S Justice Ministry explores ways to reverse the verdict which granted a retrial to a convicted drug lord sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison, Kosovo insists that without a Slovak retrial guarantee they would not have extradited Baki Sadiki.

AS SLOVAKIA’S Justice Ministry explores ways to reverse the verdict which granted a retrial to a convicted drug lord sentenced in absentia to 22 years in prison, Kosovo insists that without a Slovak retrial guarantee they would not have extradited Baki Sadiki.

Slovak Justice Minister Tomáš Borec has restated that in his letter dated last November he only informed Kosovo that Sadiki, a Kosovar Albanian, has the right to request a new trial but has not given any such guarantee. The minister has the ambition to submit a special appeal against a regional court verdict that voided the earlier conviction.

But an advisor to Kosovo’s justice minister, Dafina Bucaj, told the Sme daily that Kosovo does not acknowledge verdicts issued in absentia and thus it would request a new trial in any similar extradition case. Bucaj said the “request from Slovakia included the guarantee that he [Sadiki] will have the right to a new trial”, Sme reported in its September 18 issue.

On September 3, the Prešov Regional Court cancelled the original verdict for Sadiki, convicted of smuggling heroin from Turkey to Slovakia hidden in imported beach sandals, thus effectively reopening his trial. After several years at large, Sadiki was arrested on October 25, 2012 as part of an Interpol operation called Infrared. In December, a Kosovo court in Gjilan cleared Sadiki for extradition to Slovakia.

Borec, addressing a special meeting of the parliamentary defence and security committee on September 17, said that the verdict by the Prešov Regional Court, which cleared Sadiki’s way to a new trial earlier this month, is incorrect from both a procedural and legal point of view.

“The Prešov Regional Court claimed that the Slovak Republic in the course of negotiations promised to secure the right to a new trial to Baki S.,” Borec told the committee, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “In this point the claim is absolutely incorrect. I personally signed on November 9, 2012, a letter, where completely differently I let them know that Baki S. has the right to request a new trial, but not that he is automatically entitled to it.”

The minister referred to his letter, which includes the statement that “in this regard, please be advised that under applicable Slovak law the person has the right to request a retrial” and which he showed to the media earlier this month.

The Prešov Regional Court incorrectly assessed the documents, Borec said. Nevertheless, for Borec an eventual punishment of the involved judges is of secondary importance. The primary goal is to reverse the verdict, he said. Borec is now considering a special appeal, which he must file within 90 days.

“These judges should not wear [judge’s] gowns,” said opposition MP Daniel Lipšic at the special session, pointing to a security aspect of the case, since the man in question was sentenced for distributing hundreds of thousands of doses of heroin. Lipšic also warned Borec that the Supreme Court, led by Štefan Harabin, would decide about an eventual appeal. Lipšic said Harabin was “in the past a close friend of Baki Sadiki”, TASR reported.

The committee nearly unanimously endorsed Borec’s planned course of action in the Sadiki case. Lipšic’s proposal to ask the minister for information on further steps in relation to the appeal and on the disciplinary liability of the regional court judges who earlier decided on the case did not pass.

Harabin’s response

“I do not have any relationship with him,” Harabin said at a September 17 press conference in reference to allegations of ties to Sadiki. Harabin also suggested that if an appeal to the Sadiki case ends up at the Supreme Court he would not decide on it.

“I will certainly not decide on it because I am the chairman in a five-member appeal senate, thus I cannot decide over it,” Harabin said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that he has never commented on any case at the Supreme Court.

Harabin has also said that he is not interested in the Sadiki case: “Why should I be interested? Do you know how many acquaintances and friends I have and how many cases these people have?”

Harabin denies the authenticity of a transcript of a phone conversation that he is alleged to have had with Sadiki in 1994, calling the transcript “an intelligence game”. Back in 2008, the then opposition cited the transcript in a motion seeking to get Harabin sacked as justice minister of Prime Minister Robert Fico’s first government. The initiative, which failed, was led by Lipšic, who was then in the opposition, and called Harabin’s ties with Sadiki “friendly”.

The prosecutor’s office had, in 2008, confirmed that the phone transcript formed part of a request by the then head of its criminal department to have Harabin excluded from decision-making in cases involving Sadiki. However, the Bratislava I District Court ruled in September 2012 that the Office of the General Prosecutor, by confirming the authenticity of the transcript, had erred and must pay €150,000 in damages to Harabin for what the court called an incorrect official proceeding, SITA reported.

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