Janez Janša walked out of prison earlier today. This followed an injuction by the constitutional court which suspended execution of his two-year prison sentence pending final ruling in the Patria Affair. The court unanimously agreed that – in a nutshell – it’s Janša’s MP status which would have been impeded beyond repair should the final ruling be made in Janša’s favour. Should, however, the court in the end rule against Janša, the leader of the SDS will continue to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Free Ivan (source)
Now, immediately after the injunction was announced, all hell broke loose and (as per usual) Slovenia was all of a sudden teeming with legal experts. Obviously, most of the interpretations were and still are wildly off the mark. Among the disappointed crowd, the story was being spinned as if Janša was released from prison because he is a politician.
Among the faithful, on the other hand, Janša out of was prison akin to quashing the prison sentence against Janša, confirmation of their belief that Janša is a “political prisoner” and prompting them to call for the heads of most of Slovene judiciary, starting with president of the Supreme Court Branko Masleša.
All of the above is painfully wrong.
Janša was released from prison (possibly only temporarily) not because he is a politician but because he is an MP. Now, whether we like it or not, the constitution states that every single MP is the representative of the entire people. While the MPs debated Janša’s ejection from the parliament, his posse kept on babbling about how the rights of his 6000+ voters are being hindered if he is barred from serving as MP while in prison.
The constitutional court, however, took it one step further, but not necessarily in the direction Janša and his crew wanted. Namely, it had stated that it was representation of the people of Slovenia that was at stake. Not just JJ’s 6000 voters. However, the said representation was only at stake if the man is innocent (i.e.: is found to have not been tried fairly).
Meaning that the court en passant confirmed the controversial decision of the parliament to deny MP status to a convict, but had not yet decided if Janša was convicted fairly.
This of course opens up a plethora of other constitutional and political loopholes which the parliament knew existed for years if not decades, but was unwilling to plug them.
So, what at first seems like good news for Janša, really may turn out to be not-so-good news. Because Janša is out only because he is a serving MP. It is this particular specific situation which makes his case different from that of his co-convicts, Ivan Črnkovič and Brigadier (Ret.) Tone Krkovič. The trio was convicted simultaneously, but only Janša gets to walk out. Because he is an MP and not because the constitutional court would imply the final outcome of the ruling.
In fact, in the text of the injuction (Slovene only) the judges make an extended effort to press this exact point: the injunction does in no way, shape or form preclude the final ruling in the matter.
And that is all there is to it. Representation of the people matters most. The court recognises a possibility, however remote, that a serving MP was convicted unjustly and set him free to execute his mandate until final decision. Should that decision be reached in favour of the plaintiff all hell will break loose, possibly forcing early elections. But if the judges find against Janša et al., the leader of the opposition simply continues in prison where he left off today.