The Alliance for the Protection of the National Theatre has appealed to the international diplomatic community for human rights protection.
In a statement issued last night, they urgently requested their assistance following a number of events that they say has left them “feeling that we are at risk of political pressure that threatens our work on behalf of civil society, democracy building, and providing humanitarian assistance to victims of the 25 November earthquake.”
They provided a rundown of events including the arbitrary arrest of one of their members Adriana Kalaja.
On the morning of 2 December, members of the Alliance witnessed “what appeared to be humanitarian aid” being unloaded at the Ministry of the Interior and asked the officers why this was occurring. They were told that they were “material evidence of a possible crime”, to which the activists questioned why it was not being turned over to state-appointed agencies responsible for the investigations.
The Alliance posted a video of the interaction to Facebook which was followed by a public statement from the Interior Minister Sander Lleshaj. He called the activists “jerks” and “thieves”, called their actions “filthy” and said that they were “without honour and dignity”. He then threatened the Alliance saying that they could be prosecuted for spreading ‘fake news’.
The Alliance then held a press conference to refute the claims and to clarify their position in the crisis relief efforts.
The Alliance have worked around the clock since the morning of the earthquake to provide some 50 tonnes of aid to citizens that have been affected and displaced. Processing donations from almost 10,000 donors, they have used their own time, money, and resources to send the items to where they are needed most.
Following the press conference, Kalaja left in her car and was stopped on Rruga Toptani by two unmarked police cars who blocked her route. Two uniformed officers were waiting on the road where she was stopped and they forced open the lock on her door and took her car keys. They then tried to pull her from the car, without giving any reason for their actions.
According to the Alliance’s statement, the policemen whose cars had stopped her had been present at the press conference, in plainclothes so as to avoid detection. The only information they would give regarding their identity was that they were with the economic crimes unit.
They had no arrest warrant, yet they tried to take her to the police station but she resisted until they ultimately let her go.
The Alliance asked four questions- why were the police surveilling them, why did the unmarked cars follow her and stop her, why was there a marked police car waiting, and why were they attempting to arrest Kalaja.
The statements concludes with their deep concern regarding the “arbitrary use of police force under these circumstances”.
“We are especially concerned as this follows defamation and threats from the Minister of Interior. These actions suggest that we may all be in danger of arbitrary police action against citizens who have been amongst the most dedicated, organized, and selfless workers on behalf of the victims of the 26 November earthquake. We are urgently requesting your protection for our human rights, for our continued work on behalf of civil society and democracy-building in Albania, and, most importantly for our ability to continue providing much-needed civil society assistance at this moment of national crisis,” they added.