Albania Judge Probed For Freeing Murder Suspect

The Tirana prosecutor’s office is investigating a judge in Durres who is accused of abuse of power by freeing a murder suspect.According to the prosecutor, Judge Neritan Tabaku stalled the publication of the arguments on a previous murder case against a local gangster, Ilir Xhakja, for nearly 17 months, blocking the appeals process and thus setting the defendant free.“Tabaku is accused of abuse of power for… gravely damaging the criminal procedure against the defendant Ilir Xhakja and hampering justice,” the Tirana prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

Xhakja, who was released in 2011 after his incarceration ended, was re-arrested last week, suspected this time of murdering the police chief in the town of Shijak, Adem Tahiraj.

The suspect was first arrested in 2007 for a homicide that took place in 2002. He was convicted in Tirana of murder and sentenced to 21 years in prison.

But the Supreme Court overturned the case on procedural ground and sent it for retrial in the District Court of Durres.

In February 2010, at the local court in Durres, Judge Tabaku found the defendant not guilty of murder and convicted him on a lesser charge of weapons possession.

Local prosecutors immediately appealed in 2010, but the judge has yet to publish the arguments of the verdict, blocking the appeals process.

According to police, Xhakja is suspected of having shot Tahiraj at roadblock in the village of Katund-Sukth last Thursday. He was arrested a day later, following a man hunt by Interior Ministry Special Forces.

Besides the murder charge from in 2011, Xhakja previously served two short sentences in 1995 and 1996 for battery and extortion. He was also a suspect in a double homicide in 1996, and is believed to be involved in human and narcotics trafficking.

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