Editor's note: This film is no longer available to view online.

"Every case has a unique meaning for the future," says Marie Tuma, a Swedish criminal judge.

She is working with EULEX in Kosovo, an EU-operated mission which aims to get the state's justice system on its feet.

Tuma has been assigned to preside over the mission's largest corruption case; among the accused is Fatmir Limaj, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander and the current deputy prime minister.

Sometimes I have the feeling that it's the criminal world that rules. It feels like the entire society is built on corruption.

Marie Tuma, Criminal judge

Limaj was accused by EULEX's prosecutors of "manipulating tender procedures, giving and receiving bribes and obstructing evidence in relation to three tenders" while handling construction projects as the minister of transport between 2008 and 2010, amounting to about two million euros (roughly $2.2m) in alleged damage to the ministry's budget. At the time, the ministry was building highways linking Kosovo to Albania.

In the courtroom, Tuma faces constant challenges; she must navigate Kosovo's system of entrenched politics while also feeling pressure from within EULEX, which is downsizing its offices and is caught up in its own power games.

As Tuma fights to protect her courtroom from political interests and worries that her personal safety is at risk, she finds herself more isolated than ever.

Still, she tries to hold on to her faith in justice. 

"This is something deeply rooted within me. Since I was a child, I have believed that the good will overcome the evil," Tuma says.

With constant twists and turns, the unfolding trial exposes complex powers at play and a nation recovering from its divided past.

Witness - Patriotic Highway - DO NOT USE
Fatmir Limaj is accused of massive corruption while working as Kosovo's minister of transport between 2008 and 2010 [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

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FILMMAKER'S VIEW

By Caroline Troedsson

When the international lawyer, Marie Tuma, was appointed as presiding judge in one of Kosovo's most important criminal court cases, I travelled to the Balkans to follow her.

On the first day of filming the trial, it became obvious that this would not resemble anything I'd expect it to be. It kicked off a recording period of a little more than two years with many more unexpected twists than I could ever have dreamed of.

When Kosovo declared independence in 2008, EULEX was set up by the European Union to ensure a functioning rule of law. That's why we stepped into a court in Kosovo with a Swedish judge, US prosecutor and Kosovan defendants and defence lawyers, who were soon joined by a British star lawyer.

Tuma's experiences with previous international courts had well-equipped her to deal with turmoil and sudden changes inside the courtroom.

But it is not a common corruption case. Soon, growing expectations from the EU member states towards EULEX made it necessary to protect the trial from political interests.

Making a film in Kosovo meant I had to learn about the region's trauma, listening to testimonies from those who managed to escape the latest ethnic conflict in the 1990s.

There was so much I had never heard of before, which gave a deeper understanding of the moments of tension inside the courtroom. There were many implicit references to the past, and the main accused Fatmir Limaj took us on a personal journey into the past in Patriotic Highway.

After his efforts as a military commander in the liberation army KLA (UCK) during the 1990s, he joined the top level in the government. However, suspicions of corruption soon began to spread - threatening the political career of Limaj.

The main trial in Patriotic Highway started in 2015 and was the result of five years of investigation into suspected organised crime. It turned out that the corruption allegations had more than one guise, and doubt became Limaj's heaviest defence.

My time making this film has made me think a lot about the limitations of the justice system. There's a difference between wanting the truth to materialise and chasing evidence to convict someone in a court.

Where the truth has nuances, the law is a single-track. When a country is constructed from scratch, you work on more than the rule of law to gain your citizen's trust. But if there is room for suspicion that the judiciary cannot withstand political influence, the trust in pretty much everything collapses.

In May 2019, we elected our members to the European Parliament. After filming Patriotic Highway, nothing felt more important than to vote for those who fight for the core values of democracy in everything that is the EU's responsibilities.

Source: Al Jazeera