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Thursday, July 7, 2022

On the Systemic Corruption in Slovenian Courts

By: Anamarija Novak

“There is obvious systemic corruption in favour of classic crime of international proportions present at the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia. The European Commission will have more work to do with this than with Poland.” This is Prime Minister Janez Janša’s tweet, published in response to the revealing of names of the judges who played an important role in the release of convicts in the Balkan Warrior case.

The decision of the Supreme Court, which released the convicts in the Balkan Warrior case due to the evidence being obtained illegally, is still resonating in our country. Draga Tošić‘s lawyer, Janez Koščak from the Čefern Law Firm told one of the commercial TV stations the following: “While people in Serbia were wiretapped without any decrees, and then the Italian wiretaps were then also based on the former, Uruguay conducted house searches without the presence of witnesses. As far as Slovenian wiretapping is concerned, we believe that our police used the IMSI catcher (IMSI catcher of a fake base station) at a time when the law had not allowed it yet.” The decision to release the so-called Balkan warriors was made under the leadership of Supreme Court judge Branko Masleša, who unjustly convicted Janša in the Patria case years ago.

The political activism of the Supreme Court
What is also interesting is that the Supreme Court is engaging in political activism on social networks – mainly in response to Prime Minister Janez Janša‘s comment on the matter, which is, of course, highly inappropriate for such an institution. Here is what they wrote about Janša’s tweet about Masleša’s decision in the Balkan Warrior case: “These insinuations made by the Prime Minister are untrue and completely unacceptable, and they do not deserve any additional comment. Supreme Court judge Masleša himself did not release anyone from prison. More on the reasons for the annulment of the decision in the Balkan Warrior case will become known after the verdict.” “The Prime Minister of the Republic of Slovenia is not insinuating anything. Some of these facts are even listed in the cited article. Comment or deny those if they are really not true. So, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, which of the things written in the article are wrong?” Prime Minister Janša quickly responded to the Supreme Court and attached a link to an article published on the Siol web portal, which reported on the fact that a District Court judge named Saša Kmet played a rather important role in the Supreme Court’s decision to release Dragan Tošić. Meanwhile, SD MP Matjaž Nemec publicly defended the Supreme Court’s statement: “Isn’t anyone at least a little bit uncomfortable with these low-minded lies and attacks on the Slovenian judiciary by Prime Minister Janša? Anyone? Matej Tonin? Jernej Vrtovec? Janez Cigler Kralj? Mark Boris Andrijanič? Zdravko Počivalšek?” And we prefer not to waste space on the “independent journalist” Blaž Zgaga‘s support to the Supreme Court.

Judge Kmet, help!
And what did the editor-in-chief of the web portal Siol, Peter Jančič, write in his column? He pointed out that it was the Senate of the Supreme Court judges, which was chaired by Branko Masleša, and included the members Mitja Kozamernik as a rapporteur, Kristina Ožbolt, Barbara Zobec and Marjana Lubinič, that decided on the demands of the “Balkan warriors” for the protection of the rule of law. Reportedly, all of the above voted in favour of the annulment of the verdict, except for Zobec, who voted against it. According to Jančič, Kozamernik has had a lot of work to do in recent years at the War Crimes Tribunal in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that is probably why he eventually got help for his workload from the Trbovlje District Court judge Saša Kmet. However, this is not standard practice in our judicial system. According to Jančič’s article, Saša Kmet played an important role in the release of Dragan Tošić. According to the 2018 ruling, Tošić was supposed to serve 15 years in prison. In this case, the request for the protection of legality was first assigned to David Špernjak, who is employed at the Supreme Court. However, no decisions were made until October of this year, when the District Court judge from Trbovlje, Saša Kmet, was appointed to the Supreme Court, and in less than two months, he had prepared the decisions for the Senate session. Apparently, he worked quite hard on this, as he “got through” around 40 thousand pages in just two months. Some have said that he was in a hurry because of the upcoming elections. However, no such change or assignment of work to a District Court judge has ever happened before at the Supreme Court.

Suspicious connections between judges
Jančič also reminded Siol‘s readers of the unusual connection between Špernjak and Kmet and the suspiciously elected Supreme Court judge Primož Gorkič. Namely, Gorkič did not have a single day of judicial experience before being elected the Supreme Court judge, but a decade ago, he helped rescue Tošić from prison with an expert opinion prepared for the Čeferin Law Firm, which stated that evidence against the Balkan cocaine warriors was obtained illegally.

Things were very different abroad
It should also be pointed out that in Italy, Serbia and Uruguay, members of the same drug trafficking group, including Slovenian citizens, were arrested and then stayed behind bars. Darko Šarić’s property in Serbia was confiscated, namely, the property he acquired through crime – from villas, apartments, bars, companies to hotels and cars. Property of illegal origin, amounting to more than two million euros, was also confiscated from Tošić in Slovenia, but it has already been returned to him because the Constitutional Court annulled the Confiscation of Assets of Illicit Origin Act. In addition, Tošić was also released from prison. The last thing we need now is for Tošić to claim the loss of earnings for the time when he was imprisoned, which prevented the members of the network from trading in drugs, as the loss of earnings in this “business” is measured in millions, or in even higher numbers.

Unusual connections
Judge Špernjak, who helped prepare the decision, was also one of the people ruling in the Trenta affair, in which the current Prime Minister Janez Janša’s lawyer Franci Matoz protested, because the President of the Court, Marjan Pogačnik, suddenly decided to add the judge in question to an already-formed panel of judges who would decide on Janša’s appeal in the Trenta case. In addition, Pogačnik also assigned the case to a specialised department, although at that stage of the investigation, this was just a “regular” case. Matoz was surprised by Špernjak’s sudden inclusion in the senate for a specialised case, meaning for a more complex form of organised crime or terrorism, because he was a newly elected judge, who did not have the specialised knowledge and experience to participate in such cases, Siol reports. And, as we have also previously reported, David Špernjak received his master’s degree under the mentorship of judge Primož Gorkič, who was an advocate of the conviction in the Patria case. Gorkič later criticised the Constitutional Court for overturning all judgments. And in the past, Kmet was Gorkič’s co-worker at the Institute of Criminology of the Ljubljana Faculty of Law. He was elected to the position of District Court judge in Trbovlje four years ago, and before that, he was one of the signatories of the protest against media disqualifications of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption under the leadership of Goran Klemenčič, which was signed by researchers and associates of the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law in Ljubljana, Ljubo Bavcon, Dragan Petrovec, Renata Salecl, and Katja Šugman Stubbs.

Gorkič, the warrior judge
As we have already mentioned, years ago, Gorkič prepared a legal opinion for the Čeferin Law Firm, stating that the evidence against the “Balkan warrior” Dragan Tošić in Slovenia and other countries was obtained illegally because the police did not have the appropriate court orders to obtain it. Following this expert opinion, the court acquitted those who were convicted at the first instance court. However, Gorkič’s opinion turned out to not be valid then, but now it obviously is, as the Supreme Court has annulled the whole judgment once again. And Gorkič only became the Supreme Court judge because of the MPs of Luka Mesec’s Levica (the Left) party, who voted for him the second time, as they did not support him the first time.

Judge Marjutka Paškulin is also involved in the matter
When Dragan Tošić was arrested in 2010, the investigating judge Marjutka Paškulin rejected the request to extradite Tošić to Italy. He was tried in Slovenia and acquitted in the first instance court, also because of Gorkič’s legal opinion on the illegally obtained evidence. It should be pointed out that Paškulin recently also refused to detain the protesting activist Zlatan Čordić when he was detained by the police for inciting violent protests.

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