So you already know about the Penko debacle, where the state prosecution (especially Attorney General Barbara Brezigar) quite probably abused its powers while arresting former prosecutor Boštjan Penko. Both Penko and Ivan Zidar of Operation Clean Shovel were released without charges. The reason for that is the fact that the investigative judge (a curious function of Slovene judiciary, investigatvie judge oversees a particular case before charges are filed) refused to issue a warrant for search of Penko’s and Zidar’s houses and cars.
Andrej Baraga and Boštjan Penko. Vacationing together or just acquaintances?
And this is where interior minister Dragutin Mate stepped in front and centre. Namely, he said that the investigateve judge Andrej Baraga was biased, since he is close friends with Boštjan Penko and the two even spent summer vacations together. The statement was a bombshell in its own right, but as it came from minister of interior (executive branch) and it openly attacked a particular judge (judicial branch), it was a clear violation of the principle of separation of powers.
It is one thing to comment a particular case (in some countries even that would be unnacceptable, but hey, this is Slovenia), it is quite another to accuse a sitting judge of bias and even corruption. OK, so we knew Mate was a bit cranky since they couldn’t get Penko, but such a statement would require some serious corroboration. None was forthcoming.
Now, Andrej Baraga, the “incriminated” judge is not your average judicial paper-pusher. He is actually the President of the Ljubljana Disctrict Court, who just happened to be on duty as an investigative judge ten days ago. He was also widely perceived as the “government’s man” since he was brought in after Minister of Justice refused to confirm Aleš Zalar, another high profile judge to the position. In any case – it appears that the case against Penko was so thin that even Baraga refused to play ball and denied the prosection any search warrants. In return, the interior minister accused him of being good chums with Penko. Both Baraga and Penko fervently denied that, saying they barely know each other.
So, what we’re seeing here proves that the ruling clique a) doesn’t give a shit about the separation of powers, b) expects total loyality from people who have risen to their current functions thanks to this government even if it flies in the face of the rule of law, c) will use any means necesary to discredit people it feels must be removed and d) will fabricate facts to that end.
Quite a worrying trend, to say the least.
On the other hand, if the minister’s accusations are true, one might ask – how does the minister know all that? Has the police been snooping around not only Penko but Baraga as well? How long has this been going on? And – most of all – who else is under investiation?
This one scares me even more.