Recent corruption charges against a Prizren mayor and five other officials raise citizen hopes that the judicial system is doing its job.
By Linda Karadaku for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 09/03/13
Kosovo citizens hope recent charges against officials in Prizren mark the beginning of an end to corruption. [Nikola Barbutov/SETimes]
Kosovo citizens hope that the corruption charges against Prizren Mayor Ramadan Muja and five other senior municipality officials signal positive changes in the country's judicial system.
"Citizens are fed up with abuses of authority. We expect justice to do its part, and if the charges against Muja are proven, we hope for a proper sentence. This is not the first case of senior officials charged with corruption and authority abuse in Prizren. We want to see an end to corruption, once and for all," Dreni Gashi, a Prizren worker, told SETimes.
"Cases in which the defendants are heads of central and local institutions affect governance at both levels… If this and other such cases end up in convictions, and senior officials end up serving sentences, public trust in the justice system will increase in the country, and all will be encouraged to participate in solving various corruption activities," Betim Musliu, director of the Kosovo Law Institute, told SETimes.
In late February, EULEX filed corruption charges at the Prizren Basic Court against Muja and five other municipality officials for giving public land to the educational Gulistan Centre and public property to the Mehmet Akif College.
"The case includes allegations of illegal use and benefit from land belonging to the Prizren municipality, and other actions that resulted in a serious rights violations of a number of claimants in civil disputes," EULEX said.
Despite the charges, the mayor and other officials are still on duty. Blerim Krasniqi, EULEX spokesperson, said that the prosecutor's office does not decide if Muja stays on or is removed from duty.
The Kosovo state prosecutor's office told SETimes that according to current legislation, when charges are raised, officials can continue to hold their positions.
"Based on the Article 56 of the local self-government bill, the mandate of the mayor ends, 'in case of a sentence for a penal act with an order for imprisonment for six months or more'," Agron Maxhuni, director for legal monitoring of the municipalities in the ministry, told SETimes.
Ymer Berisha, spokesperson for the Prizren municipality, told SETimes the municipality has not received the official charges from the court.
The opposition Vetevendosje Movement noted that this is the fourth mayor from the Kosovo Democratic Party against whom charges have been raised for serious crimes.
"This level of crime, corruption, and abuse of office happens not only on the municipal level, but on the central level as well," Vetevendosje said in a press release, adding that "eradication of corruption is a precondition for political, social and economic development of Kosovo."
But citizens do not want the corruption fight mired by politics.
"Justice should be done, but without … politics," Ndue Paluca, a Prizren merchant, told SETimes.
Rita Rexhepi, 24, said she is hopeful the latest corruption charges will make a difference.
"It's hard to do any administrative business without having to give a bribe," she said. "I hope the day will come when the complaints of the citizens will be considered."