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In Wake of Novartis Case, Greece Mulls Evaluations for Judges

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(Photo by Eurokinissi/ Michalis Karagiannis)

ATHENS - While probes are still going on into the dissolving case of whether the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis paid bribes to 10 politicians, the New Democracy government is looking at requiring judges to be trained and evaluated.

The aim is to make sure they are qualified and competent and insure promotions and advancement are based on merit, said Kathimerini of the scheme that itself hasn’t been finalized.

Deputy Prime Minister Panagiotis Pikrammanos, a former head of the Council of State, is among those who want changes, the paper said, including strict evaluation standards to include performance and not just seniority as a reason for promotion.

The judiciary must be protected as a way of safeguarding the economy too, he said, as the government eyes the creation of special court sections to prioritize hearings relating to important investments, the paper said.

Pikrammenos reportedly said that, judicial officials should receive training in specialist areas of the law and be examined, with those passing tests successfully being prioritized for promotions, with no word how that’s sitting with judges.

Supreme Court prosecutor Vassilis Pliotas has also called for the evaluation of judicial officials, saying that it should be “fundamental, strict and in-depth.” He proposed that the evaluation for senior judges, above the appeals court level, should be conducted by a three-member committee, and not just an individual judicial official, as is the case today.

Earlier this month, a lack of interest led to 22 vacancies for the Supreme Court being filled by the candidates who applied without evaluating whether they were even qualified for the spots, the report said.

The Novartis case, in which the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA said 10 of its rivals had taken bribes - with no evidence produced - also led to questions of meddling in the judiciary and with judges after the high court’s former chief became the top lawyer for leftist leader Alexis Tsipras.

Greece’s chief corruption prosecutor, Eleni Touloupaki, and two associates denied any wrongdoing in their handling of an alleged scandal around the Novartis case that has unraveled.

Testifying before Evangelos Zacharis, a Deputy Supreme Court prosecutor, they denied charges of abuse of power, dereliction of duty and making false statements in the case.

Seven of the accused have already been cleared with no proof brought by three alleged whistleblowers who said they overheard that the politicians may have taken money in a case based on hearsay that became a political football.

Zacharis is responsible for probing allegations that judicial officials were influenced by SYRIZA to go after its rivals, the now-ruling New Democracy and politicians from the now-defunct PASOK Socialists who served the Conservatives in a coalition.

The three charged prosecutors said they believed the witnesses who made the claims but it wasn't explained why no evidence had been produced and why the case continued to be pushed despite that.

SYRIZA’s former alternate justice minister Dimitris Papangelopoulos is  the target of a growing investigation into whether he tried to help engineer a fake scandal against rivals, which he has repeatedly denied.