Iranian-Canadian father, mujahedeen daughter clash over Albania-based MEK

Iranian-Canadian father, mujahedeen daughter clash over Albania-based MEK

TIRANA, Aug. 4 – An Iranian father and daughter have traded accusations against each other over Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, MEK, whom Albania has offered accommodation under a deal with the United States but whose members official Iran has banned

Read Full Article
High Court, Tirana’s prosecution lose two more judges under vetting process

High Court, Tirana’s prosecution lose two more judges under vetting process

TIRANA, Aug. 1 – In three consecutive sessions, different bodies of the Independent Qualification Commission issued the decisions to oust High Court judge Artan Broci and current Tirana Prosecutor Dritan Rreshka, while the other High Court member Medi Bici was

Read Full Article
Opposition criticizes confirmation of judge who acquitted accused murderer

Opposition criticizes confirmation of judge who acquitted accused murderer

TIRANA, Aug. 1 – The opposition’s Democratic Party reacted on Wednesday following the Independent Qualification Commission’s decision to re-confirm the Serious Crimes judge Dritan Hallunaj, who in 2015 decided businessman Arben Frroku, accused of killing the police commissar Dritan Lamaj,

Read Full Article
Police vetting postponed due to unestablished commissions

Police vetting postponed due to unestablished commissions

TIRANA, Aug. 1 – The vetting process of the State Police, Guard of the Republic and Internal Affairs Service that was expected to begin in August will take at least one more month to start, sources from the Ministry of

Read Full Article
Independent experts back US report on Albania’s corrupt business climate

Independent experts back US report on Albania’s corrupt business climate

TIRANA, Aug. 1 – The opposition, government and independent economic experts have followed the State Department’s 2018 Investment Climate report rating Albania as a difficult place to do business according to foreign investors with opposing comments and sentiments. “Albania is

Read Full Article
Opposition seeks sacking of vetting body member over alleged English skills lie

Opposition seeks sacking of vetting body member over alleged English skills lie

TIRANA, July 31 –  The opposition’s Democratic Party released on Monday documents alleging that Independent Qualification Commission member Lulzim Hamitaj falsified his English language certificate, thus demanding his resignation and the initiation of a penal investigation towards him by the

Read Full Article
Albania: source of victims of trafficking in persons, report says

Albania: source of victims of trafficking in persons, report says

TIRANA, July 31 – On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the line for children’s counseling Alo 116 published a report stating that abuse and trafficking of Albanian children continues at alarming levels. The stream of denouncement calls to

Read Full Article
High Court loses another judge to justice reform vetting, worrying experts

High Court loses another judge to justice reform vetting, worrying experts

TIRANA, July 31 – Shkelzen Selimi, another High Court member, was ousted on Monday by the justice reform’s Independent Qualification Commission for inappropriate ties with the world of organized crime. Although most judiciary figures have so far been ousted due

Read Full Article
European Court for Auditors says 30 percent of public procurement lacks competition

European Court for Auditors says 30 percent of public procurement lacks competition

TIRANA, July 30 – The European Court for Auditors’ report said the Albanian government has developed about 30 percent of its public procurement procedures during 2017 through a negotiation process that doesn’t foresee publication of a contract notice. The ECA

Read Full Article
Police bust travel ID forgery group, nine arrested

Police bust travel ID forgery group, nine arrested

TIRANA, July 30 – Albanian police notified the arrest of nine people allegedly part of a criminal ring that issued fake identity documents that allowed others enter visa-requiring countries like the United Kingdom and the US. On Friday, the police

Read Full Article
WP_Query Object
(
    [query_vars] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
            [paged] => 2
            [error] => 
            [m] => 
            [p] => 0
            [post_parent] => 
            [subpost] => 
            [subpost_id] => 
            [attachment] => 
            [attachment_id] => 0
            [name] => 
            [static] => 
            [pagename] => 
            [page_id] => 0
            [second] => 
            [minute] => 
            [hour] => 
            [day] => 0
            [monthnum] => 0
            [year] => 0
            [w] => 0
            [category_name] => news
            [tag] => 
            [tag_id] => 
            [author] => 
            [author_name] => 
            [feed] => 
            [tb] => 
            [comments_popup] => 
            [meta_key] => 
            [meta_value] => 
            [preview] => 
            [s] => 
            [sentence] => 
            [fields] => 
            [menu_order] => 
            [category__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [category__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [tag_slug__and] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [post_parent__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__in] => Array
                (
                )

            [author__not_in] => Array
                (
                )

            [ignore_sticky_posts] => 
            [suppress_filters] => 
            [cache_results] => 1
            [update_post_term_cache] => 1
            [update_post_meta_cache] => 1
            [post_type] => 
            [posts_per_page] => 10
            [nopaging] => 
            [comments_per_page] => 50
            [no_found_rows] => 
            [order] => DESC
        )

    [tax_query] => WP_Tax_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                    [0] => Array
                        (
                            [taxonomy] => category
                            [terms] => Array
                                (
                                    [0] => 28
                                )

                            [include_children] => 1
                            [field] => term_id
                            [operator] => IN
                        )

                )

            [relation] => AND
        )

    [meta_query] => WP_Meta_Query Object
        (
            [queries] => Array
                (
                )

            [relation] => 
        )

    [date_query] => 
    [post_count] => 10
    [current_post] => -1
    [in_the_loop] => 
    [comment_count] => 0
    [current_comment] => -1
    [found_posts] => 9906
    [max_num_pages] => 991
    [max_num_comment_pages] => 0
    [is_single] => 
    [is_preview] => 
    [is_page] => 
    [is_archive] => 1
    [is_date] => 
    [is_year] => 
    [is_month] => 
    [is_day] => 
    [is_time] => 
    [is_author] => 
    [is_category] => 1
    [is_tag] => 
    [is_tax] => 
    [is_search] => 
    [is_feed] => 
    [is_comment_feed] => 
    [is_trackback] => 
    [is_home] => 
    [is_404] => 
    [is_comments_popup] => 
    [is_paged] => 1
    [is_admin] => 
    [is_attachment] => 
    [is_singular] => 
    [is_robots] => 
    [is_posts_page] => 
    [is_post_type_archive] => 
    [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 9683a65fa4a1aafc6b9370035b44e4c1
    [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => 
    [thumbnails_cached] => 1
    [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => 
    [query] => Array
        (
            [cat] => 28
            [paged] => 2
        )

    [request] => SELECT SQL_CALC_FOUND_ROWS  wp_posts.ID FROM wp_posts  INNER JOIN wp_term_relationships ON (wp_posts.ID = wp_term_relationships.object_id) WHERE 1=1  AND ( wp_term_relationships.term_taxonomy_id IN (28) ) AND wp_posts.post_type = 'post' AND (wp_posts.post_status = 'publish') GROUP BY wp_posts.ID ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC LIMIT 10, 10
    [posts] => Array
        (
            [0] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138197
                    [post_author] => 29
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-04 10:35:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-04 08:35:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 4 – An Iranian father and daughter have traded accusations against each other over Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, MEK, whom Albania has offered accommodation under a deal with the United States but whose members official Iran has banned as terrorist group.

Mostafa Mohammedi, a Canada-based Iranian citizen, claims his 38-year-old daughter is being held hostage by MEK, the "Peoples' Mujahedin of Iran," but his daughter denies claims and has filed a lawsuit against him.

Somayeh Mohammadi is one of the 3,000 mujahedeen who have been accommodated in a camp outside Durres, Albania’s second largest city, as part of United States efforts to find them new homes outside of Iraq where they were stationed at a U.S-backed camp until late 2016.

While in Albania seeking to meet his daughter whom he hasn’t seen in more than a decade,  Mostafa Mohammedi is asking Albanian authorities to free his 38-year old daughter from MEK, which he says is holding her hostage.

His daughter has responded undertaking legal action against him over alleged persecution, accusing her father as an undercover agent of the Iranian regime and says that she joined and is staying with MEK of her own free will for two decades now.

Mostafa, who holds Canadian citizenship, says he moved to Canada in 1994 to seek political asylum. The Iranian father claims MEK ‘kidnapped’ his daughter from Canada in 1997 when she was only 17, convincing him to allow her for a two-week trip to Iraq, but never came back. He says he hasn't met her since 2005.

"We believe and we have testimony from former mujahedeen who have left the extremist organization and live in Tirana that our daughter lives under conditions of torture and inhuman treatment by the MEK jihadists," says the Iranian-Canadian in his letter to Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj.

His appeal to the Albanian authorities is "think with your heart and understand the pain that a mother and father suffer when they see their daughter being held hostage by a violent and extremist group.”

The Iranian father says he has filed a lawsuit with Albanian authorities over alleged MEK kidnapping but his daughter has responded by initiating legal action over alleged persecution.

 

 ‘Father is undercover agent,’ daughter claims

In a letter published on Albanian media, Somayeh Mohammadi claims her father is a undercover agent of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and that the real reason he is in Albania is to undertake undercover operations against MEK, which the Iranian government considers a terrorist organization for about four decades now.

Somayeh says she voluntarily left Canada in 1998 like many Iranians to join MEK seeking freedom and democracy for Iran.

She claims her father surprisingly told Canadian media she was being held hostage by MEK after meeting her at the Ashraf camp in Iraq in 2002, 2003 and 2004. "He created online propaganda blogs allegedly belonging to me and put other pressure to force me to surrender and collaborate with the Iranian authorities,” she says in her letter to Albanian authorities.

Somayeh says she has published her whole story in a book available in Persian and English unveiling efforts by Mostafa Mohammedi to abuse her, and claims that her father had a role as an undercover Iranian agent in the Ashraf and Liberty camp killings in Iraq.

"The presence of Mostafa Mohammad in Albania is very troubling for me. I am not concerned about myself, but the security of my friends in Albania. His presence shows that the Iranian regime is seeking to engage in other heinous plotting against us in Albania," she says in her letter to the Albanian Interior Minister, asking him to ban her father from staying in Albania.

In another interview with local Albanian media, the Iranian-Canadian father claims that the letter signed by his daughter and published on Albanian media was written by Mujahedeen leaders who don't want her to joint her family.

"I am not an Iranian agent. I am a Canadian citizen and parent who wants to free his daughter from the kidnapping of the Iranian jihadist group,” he says.

 

MEK in Albania

 Albania’s decision to accommodate 3,000 MEK members in the past few years has angered official Tehran who has banned them from Iran since 1981.

Mujahedin e Khalq members are opponents of Iran’s regime. Following the Islamic revolution of 1979, MEK supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran.

MEK had been on the list of terrorist organizations for several years by the United States until it was finally removed from the list in 2012 after the dissident group supported the U.S in military operations in the Middle East and in its fight against terrorism.

Relations between Albania and Iran date back to the 19th and 20th century when several Albanian Renaissance poets where inspired by Persian culture and Bektashism, an ultra-liberal mystical Muslim sect with roots in Sufism and Shia Islam that is also present in Albania, to promote Albanian independence.

Iran is represented in Albania with its own embassy while the Saadi Shirazi cultural foundation has been present in Albania since the early 1990s promoting ties between Albania and Iran.

 
                    [post_title] => Iranian-Canadian father, mujahedeen daughter clash over Albania-based MEK
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => iranian-canadian-father-mujahedeen-daughter-clash-over-albania-based-mek
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-06 12:19:31
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-06 10:19:31
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138197
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [1] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138172
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-01 18:41:27
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-01 16:41:27
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 1 - In three consecutive sessions, different bodies of the Independent Qualification Commission issued the decisions to oust High Court judge Artan Broci and current Tirana Prosecutor Dritan Rreshka, while the other High Court member Medi Bici was re-confirmed to office.

The first decision was given to Broci, for whom during the hearing several doubts were raised concerning his available assets, some apartments, office space and investments in Treasury Bonds.

Questions were also raised concerning some cases of conflict of interest, as Mr. Broci had tried civil cases of companies with which he had, before or after court proceedings, various business relationships, or donation benefits.

The High Court member reacted harshly following the decision that currently leaves him out of the judicial system, accusing the commissioners of executing the prime minister's political orders while saying he had provided proof of the legitimacy of his income.

Another IQC body subsequently confirmed the other High Court member Medi Bici, who passed the wealth declaration test and professional and moral integrity tests without any problems.

With Tuesday’s ruling, the number of High Court members is reduced from 19 to just four, including recently re-confirmed Head of the High Court Xhezair Zaganjori. Virtually all three branches of this court are non-functional and can only work for cases of security measures.

Third in line, Tirana’s current head of the Prosecution Office Dritan Rreshka was also ousted due to issues with his wealth declarations, for which he extensively argues with the IQC during the hearing. 

 
                    [post_title] => High Court, Tirana’s prosecution lose two more judges under vetting process 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => high-court-tiranas-prosecution-lose-two-more-judges-under-vetting-process
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:43:44
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:43:44
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138172
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [2] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138166
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-01 18:33:10
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-01 16:33:10
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 1 - The opposition’s Democratic Party reacted on Wednesday following the Independent Qualification Commission’s decision to re-confirm the Serious Crimes judge Dritan Hallunaj, who in 2015 decided businessman Arben Frroku, accused of killing the police commissar Dritan Lamaj, was innocent. 

The DP brought up statements made in the past by US Ambassador Donald Lu on the issue, as well as the fact that high-ranking courts later found Frroku guilty and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

During Hallunaj’s hearing, the IQC explained it had investigated the case and that it had not found any procedural violations, while explaining the profound difference of decision compared to other courts was related, according to the IQC, with the subjectivity of evidence evaluation.

However, for the DP the release from prison of someone like Frroku, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in all later stages of trial, is sufficient reason to oust Hallunaj from duty.

“If judges are confirmed to duty despite having released murderers and individuals tied to organized crime from prison then the vetting will fail to restore people’s trust in the justice system,” PM Enkelejd Alibeaj said.  

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition criticizes confirmation of judge who acquitted accused murderer 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => opposition-criticizes-confirmation-of-judge-who-acquitted-accused-murderer
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:35:34
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:35:34
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138166
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [3] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138162
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-01 18:29:14
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-01 16:29:14
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 1 - The vetting process of the State Police, Guard of the Republic and Internal Affairs Service that was expected to begin in August will take at least one more month to start, sources from the Ministry of Interior have confirmed.

In addition to delays in selecting five members through an open call for the Technical Secretariat, which will be part of the re-evaluation bodies, the need to train these judges throughout several weeks and create the necessary infrastructure to maintain the process is added to the challenges the police vetting is facing.

The hearings that will re-evaluate police officials are going to be open to the public and are expected to take place in the Academy of Security.

The external re-evaluation commission, which will scan the first 300 high-rank police officials, consists of five High Inspectorate for Wealth Declaration inspectors, five Tirana University professors, as well as five members appointed through an open call.

However, none of the external re-evaluation commission members’ names is made so far public by the Ministry of Interior, although the deadline to do so has passed.

Sources from the Ministry of Interior say the police vetting will begin in September, and that the selection of the commission’s members has been done by a ministry representative, as well as representatives of the State’s Information Service, the People’s Advocate and the Commissioner for the Protection against Discrimination and the Protection from Personal Data. 

Meanwhile, the country’s opposition Democratic Party has said the process is a joke for not giving the names of its members’ to the parliamentary commission established to oversee the process.

 
                    [post_title] => Police vetting postponed due to unestablished commissions 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => police-vetting-postponed-due-to-unestablished-commissions
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:32:41
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:32:41
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138162
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [4] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138142
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-08-01 15:49:35
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-01 13:49:35
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 1 - The opposition, government and independent economic experts have followed the State Department’s 2018 Investment Climate report rating Albania as a difficult place to do business according to foreign investors with opposing comments and sentiments.

“Albania is not a hospitable country for foreign investments. There have been no serious foreign investments in the past five years. There is a lot of political clientelism and kleptocracy, as well as pressure. Five years ago, when a new road was built, foreign companies competed for its construction, while for the last five years there is almost no foreign company interested in winning a public procurement in Albania,” said BIRN analyst Gjergj Erebara.

The State Department report says that in Albania, foreign investors and businessmen cite corruption as a major problem, particularly evident in the judicial system, lack of transparency in public procurement and poor implementation of contracts.

“This report is essentially a reconfirmation of a sordid economic reality that Albania is going through: slow economic growth with an economy that grows under its capacity, with a frequently changing legal framework, with abusive governmental decision-making favoring lobbies and large oligarch and kleptocratic accompanying it,” said the Head of the Centre for Economic Research Zef Preci.

The report assesses the implementation of the justice reform is verifying judges and prosecutors for unexplained wealth, but foreign investors perceive the investment climate as problematic and say Albania remains a difficult place to do business.

Erebera added that public-private partnership (PPP) projects are in huge proportions compared to the economy, where four road projects are 711 million euros, or 6 percent of Albania's GDP. Large amounts of money are thrown into few projects and procurement procedures allow suspicion for political clientelism, corruption and pre-selected winners.

“This system is pure political clientelism. It is like a medieval economy, where the king determines who will use the forest, who will collect the taxes, who will use the coal, who will use the coast. So everything is in the hands of an all-powerful person who is called prime minister and he does not provide what the US calls checks and balances, there are no constitutional balances,” Erebara said. 

The report stresses that big foreign investors are pressured to hire subcontractors associated with politicians, while reports on corruption in the government’s public procurement practices are commonplace. 

The report also says that PPP projects have narrowed competition opportunities, including competition among foreign investors in infrastructure and other sectors.

“PPP projects are deep distortions of competition, as the winners are known in advance and the competition is entirely formal. The government should make sure to use the parliament as a guard that protects contracts of this nature, so it avoids punishment in the future, hiding behind collegial decision-making. Most of them are unsolicited bids, meaning the government ignores or does not have plans to develop sectors and different branches of the economy,” Preci said.

In addition, according to the report, investors complain that unstable laws and officials’ difficult regulations are tools to remove foreign investors and favor politically-tied companies.

The opposition’s head of the Democratic Party Lulzim Basha said Albania is lacking foreign investments because it is pressured to cooperate with its clientele businesses. 

“Albania is not a suitable place for American businesses because of widespread corruption, especially in PPP projects and procurement, lack of rule of law and lack of competition,” Basha said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Finance Arben Ahmetaj said the axis of the report is the justice reform, which the opposition should stop trying to block.

“The report clearly states that corruption is grounded and stems from the judicial system and this has ruined the terms of doing business. The report states that if the reform is fully implemented, the business climate will improve rapidly,” Ahmetaj said.

Transparency International's Perception of Corruption Index for 2017 ranked Albania 91 out of 180 countries, a downturn of eight percent a year earlier. As such, Albania is now perceived as the second most corrupt country in the Western Balkans.

 
                    [post_title] => Independent experts back US report on Albania’s corrupt business climate
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => independent-experts-back-us-report-on-albanias-corrupt-business-climate
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-01 15:49:35
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-01 13:49:35
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138142
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [5] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138148
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-07-31 15:59:42
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-31 13:59:42
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 31 -  The opposition’s Democratic Party released on Monday documents alleging that Independent Qualification Commission member Lulzim Hamitaj falsified his English language certificate, thus demanding his resignation and the initiation of a penal investigation towards him by the prosecution.

According to DP MP Enkelejd Alibeaj, when Hamitaj applied for lecturer at Tirana’s European University, his CV announced an elementary, B1 level knowledge of English, while among the documents submitted to the re-evaluation bodies there was a proof dating in 2015 that he possesses high, C1 level knowledge of the English language.

Moreover, the DP claims that Hamitaj was not in Albania at the time he claims to have given the C1 exam that would grant him a language certificate.

“These facts create a reasonable conviction that Lulzim Hamitaj, Commissioner at the Independent Qualification Commission, has cheated state bodies and used a fake document in order to secure the qualification in the competition. This serious fact shows that he does not enjoy the right moral integrity to exercise the important task in the vetting bodies,” the DP’s announcement claimed.

According to the DP’s legal expert Gazmend Bardhi, the IQC should begin the necessary procedures to fire Hamitaj, while the prosecution should begin a penal investigation, as using false documents foresees four years of imprisonment as punishment.

There has been no reaction to the facts published by the DP so far, either by the IQC or by Hamitaj himself. 

Meanwhile, the General Prosecution Office announced through a brief statement that it “requested the assessment of the case by forwarding it to the competent prosecution office for investigation.”

 
                    [post_title] => Opposition seeks sacking of vetting body member over alleged English skills lie
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => opposition-alleges-iqc-member-falsified-english-knowledge-certificate
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:39:11
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:39:11
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138148
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [6] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138145
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-07-31 15:00:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-31 13:00:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 31 - On the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the line for children’s counseling Alo 116 published a report stating that abuse and trafficking of Albanian children continues at alarming levels.

The stream of denouncement calls to this 24-hour service is still very high for cases of violence against children, domestic violence, physical abuse and economic exploitation.

According to the report, what is actually denounced at the counseling line is just the tip of the iceberg.

Police reported that during 2015- 2017, about 50 children were victims of trafficking, but non-governmental organizations claim that part of the trafficking scheme are more than 2,500 children that live in street and are exploited for work, becoming potential victims of undocumented abuse.

Alo 116 Counseling Line Director Mirgit Vataj says this is the reason why Albania continues to be considered a source of victims of trafficking in persons.

According to police data, 365 children were estimated missing in the last 3 years, 353 of whom were found and returned to their families; these children could have been victims of human trafficking while they were missing, while 12 of them have not yet been found.

Domestic violence, physical abuse, economic exploitation, bullying among children, the problems they face in school with teachers and with each other are some of the most common concerns reported in the child counseling line.

Orphans, children living in troubled families or witnessing domestic violence and those who live with one parent due to the other’s arrest or imprisonment are also vulnerable to trafficking.

Observers believe that now that Albania has a new law on the protection of children, which is in the phase of issuing secondary legislation, it is also best to review all the institutions and problems of this field. 

They believe that the three main institutions - family, society and education institutions - are still unable to coordinate for child development, while community services are lacking in local branches of government. 

 
                    [post_title] => Albania: source of victims of trafficking in persons, report says 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => albania-source-of-victims-of-trafficking-in-persons-report-says
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-01 15:58:54
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-01 13:58:54
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138145
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [7] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138124
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-07-31 12:55:02
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-31 10:55:02
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 31 - Shkelzen Selimi, another High Court member, was ousted on Monday by the justice reform’s Independent Qualification Commission for inappropriate ties with the world of organized crime.

Although most judiciary figures have so far been ousted due to incorrect or false wealth declarations, the IQC focused on Selimi’s professional integrity and inappropriate links with elements of organized crime as the reasons that led to his ousting.

According to information ensured by international experts, Selimi influenced a 2015 High Court decision to not extradite the widely-sought Arben Qimja to Italy, as the country where he had faced the judicial system several times.

The judge appears to have used a car in the ownership of Qimja’s driver for about two years, while data stemming from a number of Albanian institutions had also uncovered his links to organized crime.

With Qimja’s ousting, the High Court is further shrinked to five members, out of whom three have successfully passed the first re-evaluation stage, while judges Artan Broci and Medi Bici are still awaiting their verdict.

As it is, the court is almost in deadlock, with about 26,000 files pending to be processed.

Meanwhile, a number of Albanian experts, the most renowned of whom Fatos Lubonja, have argued that despite warnings by a number of legal bodies of the risks associated with the vetting process, the majority of which have come true, international representatives have continued to support it and have consequently become a big part of the problem.

Among the factors that make international representatives in Albania ‘blind’ to the deadlock brought by the vetting process, Lubonja lists a feeling of superiority, ignorance and manipulation, ideological choice, conflict of interest and, last but not least, the corrupt affairs of the government currently in power. 

“Following the activities and announcements of EU Ambassador Vlahutin or US Ambassador Donald Lu (who were exposed as the reform’s champions), as well as of some EU functionaries such as Hahn, it is unable not to notice a superior stand that dictates and imposes choices which are made mandatory for Albanians,” Lubonja writes for Panorama.

Concerning ignorance, experts have pointed out that international representatives can never fully understand Albania’s social and political reality, a fact made worse by the fact that “a group of Albania activists, and not only, in one way or another caught by the majority, mainly by the power of money, roam around embassies and give their ‘independent opinion’ favoring the government on what is happening in Albania.”

Equally important experts have classified the ideological choices of most international representatives that escape critical thinking because Rama’s Socialist Party is in line with Europe’s prevailing central-leftist political alignment. 

“Two reasons facilitate this support. First is the misinformation that the SP is a leftist party and second is the fact that center-left parties in the West have also become insensitive to the most frail part of society - which has also led to their loss of popularity,” Lubonja writes.

Lastly, the conflict of interest and the government’s corrupt affairs are presented by experts as closely interrelated.

A number of them have stated that internationals living in Albania have not escaped getting caught by deals that could benefit them or their countries in economic and business terms, in exchange of their support towards the majority of the country - no matter the party representing the majority at the time. 

 

 
                    [post_title] => High Court loses another judge to justice reform vetting, worrying experts
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => high-court-loses-another-judge-under-justice-reform
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:39:54
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:39:54
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138124
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [8] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138121
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-07-30 15:30:46
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-30 13:30:46
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 30 - The European Court for Auditors’ report said the Albanian government has developed about 30 percent of its public procurement procedures during 2017 through a negotiation process that doesn’t foresee publication of a contract notice. 

The ECA controls the finances of the entire European Union, while this report is a study of all public procurement in the Western Balkans. 

Overuse of negotiated public procurement procedures without prior publication of a contract notice carry the risk to abuse state budget. This procurement is not transparent or based on fair competition, thus bringing lack of offers from different companies and competing prices for certain services.

The Public Procurement Agency itself has reported during the past years that this negotiation process uses up almost the entire fund limit available, as companies negotiating with different institutions don’t have incentives to offer their services for lower prices than the fund limit.

In this context, the ECA also points out that Albania’s legal framework for public procurement is not just far away from the European one, but also not in line with the country’s general governing strategy for financial management.

Albanian legislation allows this negotiation process to take place only in situations of emergency, but the ECA’s report concluded that the law doesn’t provide clear definition of what consists as ‘emergency’, thus allowing institutions to abuse it.

Among others, the ECA report advises the Albanian government to adapt its legislation not only with the European one, but also with Albania’s financial management legislation. Another recommendation looking to raise awareness towards citizens is establishing an electronic system for public procurement to be negotiated. 

 
                    [post_title] => European Court for Auditors says 30 percent of public procurement lacks competition 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => european-court-for-auditors-says-30-percent-of-public-procurement-lacks-competition
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-07-31 12:56:31
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-07-31 10:56:31
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138121
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

            [9] => WP_Post Object
                (
                    [ID] => 138112
                    [post_author] => 281
                    [post_date] => 2018-07-30 14:03:51
                    [post_date_gmt] => 2018-07-30 12:03:51
                    [post_content] => TIRANA, July 30 - Albanian police notified the arrest of nine people allegedly part of a criminal ring that issued fake identity documents that allowed others enter visa-requiring countries like the United Kingdom and the US.

On Friday, the police announced nine suspects were arrested, while one is still at large. 

Police also seized equipment from a workshop where Italian and Greek documents were produced, while also saying there are leads that point to arranged, illegal marriages between some individuals with Bulgarian citizens, who are EU members and could grant them EU papers. 

The documents were sold at around 8,000-12,000 euros and trafficking costs to pass by countries like Italy, Malta, Cyprus, Kosovo or Croatia avoiding official scrutiny were subject to extra money.

Albanian citizens enjoy a visa-free regime for most European countries, with the exception of the UK, while visas are also mandatory to enter the US. 

With a big number of Albanians looking to leave the country and a high demand for ways to reach the US and the UK, this is not the first time this year Albanian police arrests criminal rings operating mainly with counterfeit documents and human trafficking. 

 
                    [post_title] => Police bust travel ID forgery group, nine arrested 
                    [post_excerpt] => 
                    [post_status] => publish
                    [comment_status] => closed
                    [ping_status] => closed
                    [post_password] => 
                    [post_name] => nine-albanians-arrested-on-alleged-fake-visa-scheme
                    [to_ping] => 
                    [pinged] => 
                    [post_modified] => 2018-08-02 18:28:20
                    [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-02 16:28:20
                    [post_content_filtered] => 
                    [post_parent] => 0
                    [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138112
                    [menu_order] => 0
                    [post_type] => post
                    [post_mime_type] => 
                    [comment_count] => 0
                    [filter] => raw
                )

        )

    [post] => WP_Post Object
        (
            [ID] => 138197
            [post_author] => 29
            [post_date] => 2018-08-04 10:35:51
            [post_date_gmt] => 2018-08-04 08:35:51
            [post_content] => TIRANA, Aug. 4 – An Iranian father and daughter have traded accusations against each other over Iranian opposition group Mujahedin-e-Khalq, MEK, whom Albania has offered accommodation under a deal with the United States but whose members official Iran has banned as terrorist group.

Mostafa Mohammedi, a Canada-based Iranian citizen, claims his 38-year-old daughter is being held hostage by MEK, the "Peoples' Mujahedin of Iran," but his daughter denies claims and has filed a lawsuit against him.

Somayeh Mohammadi is one of the 3,000 mujahedeen who have been accommodated in a camp outside Durres, Albania’s second largest city, as part of United States efforts to find them new homes outside of Iraq where they were stationed at a U.S-backed camp until late 2016.

While in Albania seeking to meet his daughter whom he hasn’t seen in more than a decade,  Mostafa Mohammedi is asking Albanian authorities to free his 38-year old daughter from MEK, which he says is holding her hostage.

His daughter has responded undertaking legal action against him over alleged persecution, accusing her father as an undercover agent of the Iranian regime and says that she joined and is staying with MEK of her own free will for two decades now.

Mostafa, who holds Canadian citizenship, says he moved to Canada in 1994 to seek political asylum. The Iranian father claims MEK ‘kidnapped’ his daughter from Canada in 1997 when she was only 17, convincing him to allow her for a two-week trip to Iraq, but never came back. He says he hasn't met her since 2005.

"We believe and we have testimony from former mujahedeen who have left the extremist organization and live in Tirana that our daughter lives under conditions of torture and inhuman treatment by the MEK jihadists," says the Iranian-Canadian in his letter to Albanian Interior Minister Fatmir Xhafaj.

His appeal to the Albanian authorities is "think with your heart and understand the pain that a mother and father suffer when they see their daughter being held hostage by a violent and extremist group.”

The Iranian father says he has filed a lawsuit with Albanian authorities over alleged MEK kidnapping but his daughter has responded by initiating legal action over alleged persecution.

 

 ‘Father is undercover agent,’ daughter claims

In a letter published on Albanian media, Somayeh Mohammadi claims her father is a undercover agent of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security and that the real reason he is in Albania is to undertake undercover operations against MEK, which the Iranian government considers a terrorist organization for about four decades now.

Somayeh says she voluntarily left Canada in 1998 like many Iranians to join MEK seeking freedom and democracy for Iran.

She claims her father surprisingly told Canadian media she was being held hostage by MEK after meeting her at the Ashraf camp in Iraq in 2002, 2003 and 2004. "He created online propaganda blogs allegedly belonging to me and put other pressure to force me to surrender and collaborate with the Iranian authorities,” she says in her letter to Albanian authorities.

Somayeh says she has published her whole story in a book available in Persian and English unveiling efforts by Mostafa Mohammedi to abuse her, and claims that her father had a role as an undercover Iranian agent in the Ashraf and Liberty camp killings in Iraq.

"The presence of Mostafa Mohammad in Albania is very troubling for me. I am not concerned about myself, but the security of my friends in Albania. His presence shows that the Iranian regime is seeking to engage in other heinous plotting against us in Albania," she says in her letter to the Albanian Interior Minister, asking him to ban her father from staying in Albania.

In another interview with local Albanian media, the Iranian-Canadian father claims that the letter signed by his daughter and published on Albanian media was written by Mujahedeen leaders who don't want her to joint her family.

"I am not an Iranian agent. I am a Canadian citizen and parent who wants to free his daughter from the kidnapping of the Iranian jihadist group,” he says.

 

MEK in Albania

 Albania’s decision to accommodate 3,000 MEK members in the past few years has angered official Tehran who has banned them from Iran since 1981.

Mujahedin e Khalq members are opponents of Iran’s regime. Following the Islamic revolution of 1979, MEK supported Saddam Hussein in the 1980s war between Iraq and Iran.

MEK had been on the list of terrorist organizations for several years by the United States until it was finally removed from the list in 2012 after the dissident group supported the U.S in military operations in the Middle East and in its fight against terrorism.

Relations between Albania and Iran date back to the 19th and 20th century when several Albanian Renaissance poets where inspired by Persian culture and Bektashism, an ultra-liberal mystical Muslim sect with roots in Sufism and Shia Islam that is also present in Albania, to promote Albanian independence.

Iran is represented in Albania with its own embassy while the Saadi Shirazi cultural foundation has been present in Albania since the early 1990s promoting ties between Albania and Iran.

 
            [post_title] => Iranian-Canadian father, mujahedeen daughter clash over Albania-based MEK
            [post_excerpt] => 
            [post_status] => publish
            [comment_status] => closed
            [ping_status] => closed
            [post_password] => 
            [post_name] => iranian-canadian-father-mujahedeen-daughter-clash-over-albania-based-mek
            [to_ping] => 
            [pinged] => 
            [post_modified] => 2018-08-06 12:19:31
            [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-08-06 10:19:31
            [post_content_filtered] => 
            [post_parent] => 0
            [guid] => http://www.tiranatimes.com/?p=138197
            [menu_order] => 0
            [post_type] => post
            [post_mime_type] => 
            [comment_count] => 0
            [filter] => raw
        )

    [queried_object] => stdClass Object
        (
            [term_id] => 28
            [name] => News
            [slug] => news
            [term_group] => 0
            [term_taxonomy_id] => 28
            [taxonomy] => category
            [description] => 
            [parent] => 0
            [count] => 9906
            [filter] => raw
            [cat_ID] => 28
            [category_count] => 9906
            [category_description] => 
            [cat_name] => News
            [category_nicename] => news
            [category_parent] => 0
        )

    [queried_object_id] => 28
    [post__not_in] => Array
        (
        )

)

Latest News

Read More