The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the Montenegrin Constitutional Court’s proceedings in the case against terrorism accused Anton Sinistaj had taken too long and awarded him 1,950 euros in damages.
“The court considers that a period of more than four years and three months to rule on a case such as that of an applicant, and in particular in view of what was at stake for him, was excessive and did not satisfy the ‘reasonable time’ requirement. declared the decision of the Strasbourg court of rights.
“All the more so since it took less than three years and a month for ordinary courts to carry out all the criminal proceedings involving 17 defendants at three levels of jurisdiction,” he added.
Sinistaj was among a group of 18 ethnic Albanians arrested in September 2006, on the eve of a key parliamentary election in the then newly independent Montenegro.
The prosecution accused them of planning terrorist attacks in the predominantly Albanian city of Montenegro, with the aim of creating a republic of Albanian origin.
According to the indictment, the members of the group planned to “use explosives and weapons for terrorist acts aimed at controlling military posts, police stations and other important installations” in the part of the country. Albanian population.
Police said they found weapons and explosives during searches in Malesia, near the border with Albania and Kosovo.
In December 2006, the Podgorica Higher Court found Sinistaj guilty of associating with others for the purpose of unconstitutional activities and of preparing actions contrary to the constitutional order and security of Montenegro, and a sentenced to six years’ imprisonment.
The guilty verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal in June 2009 and the Supreme Court in December 2009, and Sinistaj was jailed for six years.
But he and his relative Viktor Sinistaj filed a constitutional complaint in March 2010, complaining that they had violated the presumption of innocence, the right to defense and the inviolability of the home, and that they had been convicted. on the basis of facts obtained illegally. evidence.
In July 2014, the Constitutional Court rejected their appeal, so they appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in December 2014.
The case has drawn international criticism against Montenegro for alleged police violence, but authorities have dismissed the charges. The then Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic, said it was in his government’s interest that the trial proceed in accordance with international legal standards.
Ethnic Albanians make up around 4.9% of Montenegro’s population, which numbers over 620,000 people. They have in the past demanded more rights for their community, but never resorted to violence to achieve their goals.