Rexhep Rraja, suspected of violence against Xhisela Maloku, was arrested Sunday afternoon, two months after he was reported to the police for violent sexual assault, rape, assault, torture, threatening with an illegal firearm, kidnapping, and stalking.
The arrest came as a result of public pressure, after former police officer Emiljano Nuhu accused Socialist MPs Rahman Rraja and Taulant Balla, as well as other high officials, of protecting the Rexhep Rraja and threatening both the victim and Nuhu in order to keep him from investigating and publicizing the crime.
However, Rraja was only arrested under charges of stalking, that only entails a conviction of six months to three years in prison. Meanwhile, the charges he was reported for entail harsher punishment: violent sexual assault entails five to ten years in prison, assault and torture four to ten years in prison, whereas carrying a weapon without a permit can mean a fine or up to two years in prison. Therefore, if someone stood accused of all these charges, they would risk being convicted from nine to 25 years in prison.
Meanwhile, no repercussions have befallen MPs Rraja and Balla, or the other high state officials that Nuhu accused.
In order to reach this outcome – the accused being arrested on a light charge and the politicians’ impunity – Edi Rama undertook an aggressive crisis management campaign, making well thought-out and strategic steps.
In order to manage public opinion in cases of criminal charges, the fundamental strategy is a standard combination of the steps: Deny, Accuse, Diminish. In special cases, particularly those of sexual assault crimes, the formula goes: Deny, Accuse, Switch places of the victim and the accuser.
It was precisely such a strategy that Rama and the Socialist majority pursued in order to manage this crisis, as soon as the accusations went public:
- they categorically denied any involvement of any political actors, from Balla to the heads of the police;
- they attacked the accuser, accusing him of being paid by the opposition, labelled him a saboteur, as the brother of a member of a criminal gang;
- they diminished and minimized the significance of the crime, attempting to dismiss it as a lovers’ quarrel, alleging that the criminal’s communication with officer Nuhu had been amicable, etc.
- they transformed the accused into the victim, and the accuser into the offender, spreading accusation that Nuhu accused the MPs in order to stir up false persecution, which he could then use to ask for political asylum abroad;
- they washed their hands off the crime, spreading propaganda that not only no Socialist politicians were involved, but that the police did everything according to the law, without granting anyone any special privilege.
- finally, they arrested Rraja under the lightest charge, which will not keep him in prison for more than a week, in order to then close the entire case with no repercussions for anyone.
To illustrate this strategy, find below a summary of the Socialist public statements that followed the Shijak TV interview with journalist Basir Çollaku and officer Emiljano Nuhu on September 26, around 13:00 in which the crime and its coverup was first reported.
September 26, circa 15:30 – Without waiting for the second part of the interview, Taulant Balla gives a press conference from the Parliament floor where he “warns” that soon Lulzim Basha would publish a video in which his name would also be mentioned, denouncing this as a trick on Basha’s part. Balla asserts that he was never in the Kruja police station (the accusation alleged that he was at the Fushë Kruja police station) and that during the time he was accused of having been there, he had been in public activities, and that could be easily verified.
September 26, circa 19:30 – The state police denies that Emiljano Nuhu was threatened on July 21, 2018 in his office, asserting that “on this date, the on duty officer in the Kruja police station, and the one that processed the claims, was another police officer, G.Ç.” The police also states that “after verification, it was determined that none of the citizens [Taulant Balla, Rrahman Rraja, Artur Bushi and Xhelal Rraja] mentioned in Nuhu’s media statement as having threatened him, have been inside the Kruja police station as he claimed.”
September 26, circa 20:30 – Government-allied Report TV publishes an interview conducted by its editor-in-chief, Muhamet Veliu, with Xhisela Maloku, who denies all of officer Nuhu’s claims. She says she wasn’t raped or assaulted, and that what had happened was a couple’s fight, and everything between them had been resolved amicably. She asserts that she didn’t see MPs Balla and Rraja, and mayor Artur Bushi at the police station. Maloku asserts that the young man’s father, MP Rraja, was outside the police station and protected her. (The day after, in an interview with Panorama, Maloku says the opposite of what she told Veliu, admitting that she was assaulted, and received death threats. Meanwhile, in the consequent days, her official police reports and the legal medical expertise that confirms her assault become public.)
September 26, circa 21:30 – Appearing on Opinion, Taulant Balla denies Emiljano Nuhu’s accusations, and amends his hours-old statement, claiming now that on the day in question he was fishing in Pogradec. (This claim was proved to be a fake one, following a Lapsi.al investigation.)
September 27 – Report TV publishes a series of articles claiming that Nuhu’s brother is part of the gang of Laert Haxhiu, someone currently wanted by the police for an assassination attempt towards Aldo Bare’s nephew in Lushnja. Report TV and Shqiptarja.com also propagate the idea that Nuhu has left his position with no threats towards him, and that he has never met Maloku. (Both of these claims are disproved by documentation made public later, containing letters sent by Nuhu to the highest police authorities and the records he kept regarding Maloku’s report.)
September 28 – Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Internal Control Service, Anila Trimi, releases an official statement, in which she declares that an investigative group investigated Maloku’s file and additional documentation and evidence, and came to the conclusion that Emiljano Nuhu has committed a legal and administrative infraction, which includes revealing investigation details, abandoning his post, and illegally crossing the border. (This statement on the part of Trimi makes her criminally responsible since no one may be granted access to an investigative file, and if she did have access, this was done in violation of the law.)
September 28 – Deputy General Director of the State Police, Aida Hajnaj, announces that she had launched an administrative investigation into the two officers, Nuhu and Çitozi, and it was determined that the two officers had violated the investigation procedure.
Making the Accuser Into the Offender, and the Accused Into a Victim
September 29 – Prime Minister Edi Rama reacts for the first time, on social media, where he accuses the whistle-blowers of raping Maloku for a second time: “Violence against the girl is unforgivable! Politically abusing the girl is equally unforgivable. The police has done its duty without favoring the son of the MP. Those who squeal like pigs in the mud of political and media riffraff are violating the girl all over again.”
September 29 – Edi Rama speaks again, asked by journalists during an activity, and openly threatens Emiljano Nuhu: “A scoundrel turned hero, he abandoned his duty and took advantage of the situation to acquire asylum. That scoundrel will not be free of us.” He continued: “We live in an era and an environment where this vicious time of lies and slander, transformed into informative terror for the citizen, takes form in PD [the Democratic Party], as its main representative.”
September 30 – Edi Rama posts on social media: “Unlike those who, yesterday, shielded people wanted by the police by declaring war on the Prosecution Office, and are now violating the girl all over again, for political gain, we always support a justice that is equal for all.”
In this manner, the arrest of Rexhep Rraja, under minimal charges, was cooked up, and everyone else was declared as having nothing to do with the issue, including MPs Balla and Rraja. Meanwhile, the whistle-blower, Nuhu, is being investigated by several agencies, including the Prosecution Office, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.