Albanian officials want ex-minister tried over deadly blast

Lawyer Blog Post 2021/05/06 10:02   Bookmark and Share
Albanian prosecutors on Thursday asked Supreme Court judges to allow the trial of a former defense minister over a massive munitions disposal factory blast that killed 26 people in 2008, more than a decade after the case against him was dropped.

The Special Prosecution Against Corruption, or SPAK, formally asked the Supreme Court to revoke its 2009 dismissal of the criminal case against Fatmir Mediu. At the time, Mediu had been spared trial because he had been re-elected to parliament and then lawmakers had immunity.

He is still a member of parliament with an opposition party, but that form of immunity in criminal cases has since been abolished.

Mediu denied wrongdoing and said Thursday that the SPAK move was politically motivated.

The March 15, 2008 explosions at Gerdec, outside the capital, Tirana, killed 26 people, injured 264 and damaged about 5,500 houses. Mediu had been subsequently charged with abuse of power.

In 2012 a court convicted and jailed 19 people over the accident, but angry relatives of the victims complained that top government officials had evaded justice.

The request to resume the case against Mediu followed an appeal to SPAK by Zamira Durda and her husband Feruzan Durda, whose six-year-old son was killed while playing in the back yard of their home near the blast site.

“That is the motive of my life, gaining justice for my son,” said Zamira Durda. “Everything in the Gerdec case should resume from scratch, not only the former minister.”

SPAK was formed under a judicial reform in 2016, prepared with help from European Union and United States experts and intended to ensure political independence for judges and prosecutors and to root out bribery.
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Judges hear arguments over Census’ contentious privacy tool

Legal Insight 2021/05/02 11:30   Bookmark and Share
The fight over whether the U.S. Census Bureau can use a controversial statistical technique to keep people’s information private in the numbers used for drawing political districts on Monday was going before a judicial panel which must decide if the method provides enough data accuracy.

A panel of three federal judges was hearing arguments on whether the method known as “differential privacy” meets the federal legal requirement for keeping private the personal information of people who participated in the 2020 census while still allowing the numbers to be sufficiently accurate for the highly-partisan process of redrawing congressional and legislative districts.

Because a panel of three federal judges will decide the matter, any appeal could go straight to the Supreme Court.

This first major challenge to the Census Bureau’s use of differential privacy comes in the lawsuit filed by the state of Alabama and three Alabama politicians over the statistical agency’s decision to delay the release of data used for drawing congressional and legislative districts. Normally the redistricting data are released at the end of March, but the Census Bureau pushed the deadline to sometime in August, at the earliest, because of delays caused by the pandemic.

Alabama claims the delay was caused by the bureau’s attempt to implement differential privacy, which the state’s attorneys say will result in inaccurate redistricting numbers. At least 16 other states back Alabama’s challenge, which is asking the judges for a preliminary injunction to stop the Census Bureau from implementing the statistical technique. Alabama also wants the agency to release the redistricting data by July 31.

Civil rights advocates, state lawmakers and redistricting experts have raised concerns that differential privacy will produce inaccurate data for drawing districts, and that will result in a skewed distribution of political power and federal funds. They also worry it will make it difficult to comply with sections of the Voting Rights Act requiring the drawing of majority-minority districts when racial or ethnic groups make up a majority of a community.

Differential privacy adds mathematical “noise,” or intentional errors, to the data to obscure any given individual’s identity while still providing statistically valid information. Bureau officials say the change is needed to prevent data miners from matching individuals to confidential details that have been rendered anonymous in the massive data release. In a test using 2010 census data, which was released without the obscuring technique, bureau statisticians said they were able to re-identify 17% of the U.S. population using information in commercial databases.
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