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United States v. Struga

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

February 7, 2017

SELIM STRUGA, Defendant.

          Gerald E. Rosen District Judge


          R. STEVEN WHALEN United States Magistrate Judge

         Defendant Selim Struga, a native of Albania, is a naturalized American citizen. In 2001, he was tried in absentia in Albania for the 1989 murder of Gezim Celmeta. His conviction was reversed by the Albanian Court of Appeals, but reinstated by the Court of Cassation (Supreme Court). Albania seeks Mr. Struga's extradition. To that end, the government has filed a Request for Extradition of Selim Struga, with supporting documentation [Doc. #20]. The Court held an extradition hearing on March 15, 2016.[1]


         At the hearing on March 15, 2016, [2] the Court admitted the following government exhibits:

         Exhibit 1: Michigan Driver's License information showing Mr. Struga's address in Royal Oak, Michigan. Transcript of Extradition Hearing, 25-26. (Mr. Struga interjected that he was arrested at his house in Troy, Michigan, not Royal Oak. Tr. 26. Nevertheless, both Troy and Royal Oak are within the Eastern District of Michigan).

         Exhibit 2: The Declaration of Jason A. Biros, Attorney Advisor for the United States Department of State. Mr. Biros attests that the extradition treaty between the United States and Albania is in full force and effect. A copy of the treaty is attached to Mr. Biros' Declaration, and was admitted as Exhibit 3.

         Also included with Exhibit 3 is a statement from Chancellor Rudin Baqli of the Albanian Supreme Court indicating that the offense of which Mr. Struga was convicted in absentia, and for which extradition is sought, was “‘intentional murder', provided for in article 76 of the Criminal Code.” At the hearing, the government represented that the Department of State had received assurances from the Republic of Albania that Mr. Struga would have the opportunity to challenge the in absentia conviction and seek a new trial. (Tr. 30). Admitted as Exhibit 4 are the original and translated “Guarantees granted by the Albanian State in respect of the right for retrial of the Albanian national Selim alias Selami Struga, subject to extradition from USA to Albania because of his trial in absentia.” Exhibit 5: Report of the Albanian General Prosecutor's Office, dated November 7, 2011, along with photographs and a witness statement of Fatmir Macka (originals and translations).

         Exhibit 6: The decision of the Albanian Court of Appeals overturning Mr. Struga's conviction, and the Albanian Supreme Court decision reversing the Court of Appeals.

         Exhibit 7: The Second Circuit's decision in Skaftouros v. United States, 667 F.3d 144 (2d Cir. 2011), offered for the principle that Courts should given deference to legal rulings from foreign countries.

         Exhibit 8: A current (but enlarged) photograph of Mr. Struga from his Michigan driver's license.

         Exhibit 9: A photograph from Mr. Struga as a younger man, contained in the Albanian court file.

         Exhibit 10: Mr. Struga's birth certificate. Counsel questioned the authenticity of this document, and the Court admitted it subject to rebuttal evidence by Mr. Struga.

         Exhibit 11: Mr. Struga's immigration file.

         Also admitted as Mr. Struga's Exhibit A, over the government's objection, were a number of witness statements, with English translations. In addition, at Mr. Struga's request, the Court gave him six weeks to have additional documents translated. (Tr. 51).[3]

         The documents admitted at the hearing indicate as follows concerning the facts of the underlying offense:

         The Report of the General Prosecutor's Office, dated November 7, 2011 (Official Translation submitted as Government Exhibit 5) summarizes the following facts taken from an examination of the file and final decision of the District Court of Tirana, Albania following Mr. Struga's trial in abstentia. According to this document, the trial testimony showed that on June 21, 1989, Mr. Struga had been drinking in a bar. He was sitting at a table with Mehment Nezaj and Fatmir Macka. At about 5:00 p.m., Adriatik Kokona joined them, and later still, Bujar Rama and Gezim Celmeta ordered something and sat at their table. A “bottle was broken at the table” [passive voice used], and Mr. Struga and his friends started to use offensive words. As Rama and Celmata were leaving the bar, one of Mr. Struga's friends had an argument with Bujar Rama. Mr. Struga and his friends joined in, and Rama backed off. At that point, Mr. Struga and his friends began to have an argument with Gezim Celmeta, the homicide victim, “putting him in the middle.” The Prosecutor's Report describes the ensuing events as follows:

“At that time, [Mr. Struga] approached him [Celmeta], who, through a sharp pointed piercing instrument, hit Gezim Celmeta on the back area. Having seen that [Mr. Struga] held in one hand a knife, thinking that a criminal offence, a fight or jabbing could happen because the involved persons were not in a good state as they had been drinking, in order to be of any help to the citizen Gezim Celmeta, Bujar Rama grabbed at the counter desk the wooden ice cream spade and tarted to hit in the direction of Adriatik Kokona, Muhamet Nezaj and Selim alias Selami Struga, who went out of the bar running and left. The victim Gezim Celmeta also went out of the bar, who after walking for several meters, fell on the ground as a consequence of the suffered wound. Gezim Celmeta was immediately sent to the hospital but due to the jabbing and the wound suffered, he was dead.”[4]

         Government's Exhibit 5 also contains the statement of witness Fatmir Macka, made under penalty of perjury. He states that when he entered the bar, he met Mr. Struga and Adriatik Kokona. They sat together for about an hour, drinking and socializing. When he left, Mr. Struga, Mr. Kokona, and Mehmet Neza were still sitting at the table. After he went home, he heard there was a quarrel, and that Gezim Celmeta had been killed. Mr. Macka states that when he was at the bar, Mr. Celmeta was not there. He states that the police ...

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