Albania's Constitutional Court overturned on Monday a law barring communist-era secret police informants from holding public office, stoking tension between the country's two main political parties.
In a unanimous decision, the court upheld an opposition Socialist Party complaint filed a year ago after the law raised concerns about the standards of democracy and political dialogue as well the independence of the judiciary.
The European Union, the Council of Europe and the United States all criticised the law. Candidates for high office have already been screened since the 1990s after Albania toppled communism.
"The Constitutional Court has ruled on the complaint of the Socialist Party on the lustration law and has found the law to be anti-constitutional," court spokeswoman Edlira Abazi said.
The court will publish its reasoning in the coming days.
The legislation denied political office until 2014 to former members of bodies involved in violence under the Stalinist regime of Enver Hoxha, who died in 1985, and those who informed for his notorious Sigurimi secret service.
Experts disagree on how many Albanians worked as informants or helped the Sigurimi, but it was a vast network essential to maintaining control over the Adriatic state which broke with the rest of the Communist world.
A Communist official in the 1960s once said that a quarter of the population was involved. Albania has never fully opened its secret police files as Germany did after unification with the former Communist east.
The Albanian government turned a deaf ear to Western criticism, prompting the EU, which Albania wants to join, to ask for broad consultations across the political spectrum.
The Socialists and judges saw the law as a ploy to sideline rivals during election campaigns and to remove prosecutors investigating official corruption. Some prosecutors and judges had been involved in communist-era trials.
The Socialists, reformed heirs to Hoxha's Communist Party, said the fact the court overturned a law for the 17th time since Berisha came to power in 2005 was a shame to Albanian democracy.
"The files should be opened with a law that respects the constitution ... Sali Berisha must know that investigation of the crimes of the past must not be done in a way that washes away the sins of the present," said Socialist MP Shega Ligori.
A government lawyer had asked that four of the nine judges on the constitutional court be removed from the case since they had issued rulings as prosecutors or judges in Communist-era trials.
Despite Monday's setback, the ruling Democratic Party appeared as determined as ever to keep on fighting against Communist collaborators, vowing to prepare a new law.
"We might consider a popular referendum to make sure the torturers don't get power. And we could even appeal to the European Court of Human Rights," Democrat member of parliament Mesila Doda said.
ReutersLast Mod: 02 Şubat 2010, 09:28