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20 former Albanian judges, prosecutors accused of corruption

May 8, 2020 GMT

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albanian prosecutors filed corruption charges Friday against 20 former judges and prosecutors who previously were fired after a vetting process that checked their anti-corruption and professional standards.

A statement from the Special Prosecution Against Corruption, or SPAK, said the charges included abuse of post, deceit and hiding illegally owned property or income.

The SPAK itself will proceed against 10 of the former judges, who served on the Supreme or Constitutional courts. The 10 other defendants formerly worked in district courts or prosecution offices and will be prosecuted by district prosecution offices in the capital and two other cities.

The defendants’ names were not made public.

Conviction on such charges can bring up to eight years in prison.

Earlier this year a former prosecutor general also was charged with hiding illegally owned property.

In 2016, a judicial reform prepared with help from European Union and United States experts passed the legislature unanimously in an effort to ensure political independence for Albania’s judges and prosecutors and to root out bribery.

About a fourth of the country’s approximately 800 judges and prosecutors were vetted over two years to check that they were independent from politics or not involved in corruption, and most of them ended up being fired, leaving Albania’s top courts dysfunctional.

The judicial reform to uproot corruption has been a main request from the European Union, which in March decided to launch full membership negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, though it has yet to set a date.