Yesterday morning at Tirana’s Penal Court, a hearing was scheduled to decide whether the magistrate would open the case of Nashi Shehapi in court. Prosecutor Eriselda Bala did not attend the session, giving no one any notification that she would not be attending.
The reason for her absence from the session is unknown and the court will convene again on 30 April.
Shehapi is accused of assaulting a three-year-old boy in August 2018. She is also alleged to have locked the child, and others in “mouse cave” which transpired to be a small, dark, cupboard under the stairs of Kindergarten No.1.
Nashi, who holds the position of Director at Kindergarten No.1 (as well as that of a Socialist Party vote collector for her area), despite not having any relevant qualifications or applying for the job has appeared at a total of three sessions so far, each time without a lawyer being present. It seems strange that someone accused of a criminal act, would not enlist the help of a legal professional to guide them.
Despite medical reports, the child’s adamance that Shehapi assaulted him, and a two hour statement given by the child in presence of witnesses- the investigation by prosecutor Bala only started after Exit exposed the story in October.
Ms Bala then asked the magistrate to close the case, after saying there was “no evidence” that Nashi had committed the crime. She presented a five-line statement from the psychologists that interviewed the child, making no reference to Shehapi and stating that the three year old said “I have nothing further to add.” This is despite the parents stating the child repeated that Nashi had assaulted him, and that to this day he still says it was her. She also presented several statements proclaiming Nashi’s innocence- signatories included a government employee, the night guard of the kindergarten, and the parent of a child who doesn’t even attend the kindergarten.
Bala also said she found no evidence of a “mouse cave” despite Exit journalists finding and photographing it within approximately 3 minutes of entering Kindergarten No.1.
In October of last year, due to the fact the investigation had not yet been opened or progressed in any way, the father of the child attended the Prosecution office wishing to meet Ms Bala to discuss the case.
Ms Bala displayed high levels of unprofessionalism when we met with her. Firstly, she refused to meet the father of the child- telling him that he had to apply in writing in order to have an audience with her. He did so immediately, enlisting the help of another prosecutor in the office to make sure she received it. She refused the written request and it was only when another prosecutor who described her behavior as “out of order” went into her office and spoke with her with raised voices, that she relented.
Ms Bala then refused to speak in English for the benefit of an English speaker who was also present- she explained that although she could speak the language, she didn’t want to.
She then told the father that the media reporting on the case was “not good”. She then repeated this to the child’s mother some weeks ago stating that them talking about it publicly had “damaged the case”. She did not elaborate.
An Exit journalist is in possession of a recording that alleges Nashi Shehapi “paid money” to pervert the course of justice. Other information has been received from a source which reiterates the allegation that money exchanged hands in an effort to keep the case out of court.
This is supported by Nashi’s continual boasting that she will never be found guilty, and that if anyone speaks out against her from the Kindergarten, they will lose their jobs.