From: Alice Elizabeth Taylor
Mentally Ill Man in Custody for Stealing €10 Commits Suicide

A court in Tirana was found to have ignored the mental health conditions of a man accused of petty theft, choosing to keep him in custody in prison where he later committed suicide.

The man had been arrested for stealing the equivalent of €10 and was being held in prison pending the outcome of his trial. His wife had been allowed to see her husband since December but when she asked to see him earlier in the week, she was informed he had hanged himself.

Bilbil Hasani had previously told the court he was “mentally disabled”, suffered from schizophrenia and had medical documentation to support this. In fact, he had a clinical card for over 20 years detailing his condition.

During one hearing, his lawyer Erion Kullolli had asked judge Maria Qirjazi to consider home arrest rather than prison. The court did not consider his medical file, nor the request of his lawyer. 

In another sitting, when the accused’s lawyer did not attend court, the decision was taken to continue the proceedings. In such cases, it is usual for the judge to adjourn the hearing for another date but Judge Qirjazi did not conform.

Psychiatrist Valentia Asabella who had been following the case said that those suffering from mental health conditions that commit minor crimes are not usually sent to prison.

Hasani’s wife told the media that her husband was being bullied by other inmates and had been verbally and physically assaulted. He was later found dead in his cell with the official reason for his death being suicide.

Albania has been repeatedly criticised for both the conditions in its prisons and the lack of care for criminals with mental health conditions. In the most recent US State Department report on Human Rights, it was noted that “poor physical conditions and a lack of medical care, particularly for mental health conditions, were serious problems.”

The report also stated that the Office of the Ombudsman and nongovernmental organizations reported that authorities held inmates with mental disabilities in regular prisons, where access to mental health care was inadequate.

Lastly, the State Department wrote that “As of August the Office of the Ombudsman inspected four mental health institutions during the year and found that patients were given inadequate psychiatric evaluations upon both admissions to and discharge from the institutions. Persons with mental and other disabilities were subject to societal discrimination and stigmatization.”