July 20th, 2024

Accused trafficker may have alibi

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on December 9, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDdshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A man charged with several other people in relation to a human trafficking case, might have an alibi for his defence, a judge was told Friday.

The Crown prosecutor handling the case against Meriton Krasniqi said Friday in Lethbridge court of justice that the accused previously suggested he may call a witness during his trial and provide an alibi. However, Crown Prosecutor Mykel Long said those comments were made leading up to a trial that was ultimately cancelled, and the accused may have changed his plans.

“I believe at (pretrial conference) Mr. Krasniqi – and whether his strategy has changed or not I can’t say – but he had indicated he was going to call a witness; there was mention of some possibility of alibi,” Long said. “We didn’t proceed to the trial, though, we didn’t receive any notice on that.”

Long said the Crown is eager to proceed with the matter, and he noted there have already been several pretrial conferences held, some when Krasniqi was self-represented and didn’t have a lawyer. He suggested new trial dates be set right away given the age of the case.

However, Calgary lawyer John Oman, who had only recently been appointed by Legal Aid to represent the accused, said he needed time to discuss the case with the Crown, and the matter was adjourned to Tuesday.

Krasniqi elected in March to be tried in Lethbridge court of justice, and pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching, sexual assault causing bodily harm, sexual assault/party to offence with another person, aggravated sexual, trafficking in persons under the age of 18, sexual assault and sexual assault of a person under the age of 16.

The charges stem from a police investigation into human trafficking in which 10 individuals, including two youth, were arrested in August 2021. Police said several men groomed a 15-year-old girl and took her to various locations where sex offences took place. The individuals also engaged in sexual activity with a 13-year-old girl, and additional victims came forward later in connection with the investigation.

Krasniqi had been attempting to retain new counsel after he parted ways with his lawyer in June, 2022. However, he told a judge last February he didn’t know if he would hire a lawyer or represent himself until after he had read through 3,000 pages of disclosure, which he had requested several months earlier.

He remained unrepresented for several months until Legal Aid appointed a lawyer for him. That lawyer was in place for the earlier trial that never proceeded, and Oman came on the record shortly afterward.

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